Focus has once again swung back onto Brexit as UK Prime Minister Theresa May set out her new Brexit deal in parliament yesterday.
The embattled PM, who has been defeated on Brexit three times already, took MPs by surprise. May announced that she will give them the option to vote on whether or not to hold a second referendum to confirm the deal.
Summary of The New Deal
May outlined the ten points of her new Brexit plan. The plan will be put to a parliamentary vote in early June and is outlined as follows:
1 – Government will seek to conclude alternative arrangements to replace the backstop by December 2020, so that it never needs to be used.
2 – A commitment that, should the backstop come into force, the government will ensure that Great Britain will stay aligned with Northern Ireland.
3 – The negotiating objectives and final treaties for our future relationship with the EU will have to be approved by MPs.
4 – A new workers’ rights bill that guarantees workers’ rights will be no less favorable than in the EU.
5 – There will be no change in the level of environmental protection when we leave the EU.
6 – The UK will seek as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible while outside the single market and ending free movement.
7 – We will keep up to date with EU rules for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at border protecting the thousands of jobs that depend on just-in-time supply chains.
8 – The government will bring forward a customs compromise for MPs to decide on to break the deadlock.
9 – There will be a vote for MPs on whether the deal should be subject to a referendum.
10– There will be a legal duty to secure changes to the political declaration to reflect this new deal.
Summary of Changes From Prior Deal
May clarified that these commitments will be guaranteed in law. This means that they will endure at least for the duration of this parliament.
Many of May’s critics suggested that a further Brexit would just be a rehashed version of the last attempt. However, May explained how her new bill is different:
1 – The Withdrawal Agreement Bill will include a vote on whether to hold a second referendum. The government will be placed under a legal obligation to seek to conclude alternative arrangements to the Northern Ireland backstop by December 2020. This will be done to avoid any need for the backstop coming into force.
2 – There will be no change to the current environmental protections after we leave the EU.
3 – There will be a legal duty on the government to seek as close to frictionless trade in goods as possible. This will be subject to being outside the single market and ending freedom of movement.
4 – The House of Commons must approve treaties on the future relationship before the government signs them. There will be a new workers’ rights bill to make sure workers’ rights in the UK are as good or better than those given to EU workers.
Reaction To May’s New Bill
Reactions to the bill have been mixed. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said:
“We will, of course, look seriously at the details of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill when it is published… But we won’t back a repackaged version of the same old deal – and it’s clear that this weak and disintegrating government is unable deliver on its own commitments.”
Pro-leave backbencher Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg said the new plan was ‘worse than before and would leave us bound deeply to the EU. It is time to leave on WTO terms.’
Many in May’s own party have now said that they will vote against the PM. This included some who voted in favor of the deal last time around. They are mostly fuelled by anger over the prospect of a second referendum. However, will the lure of a second referendum prove appealing enough to gain support from those in the Labour party? We will soon find out.