| | | Effective PR

"Legally binding" amendments to the UK 's Withdrawal Agreement with the EU

Editorial Staff

Today is a big day in the UK's parliament. It's a re-run of the so-called "meaningful vote" and it's pretty much the last chance for the UK to avoid leaving the EU without an exit strategy a.k.a. deal although there are plans X,Y and maybe Z to avoid that happening, at least one of which will rely on the co-operation of the EU - or might not, depending on how one views a particular part of the Lisbon Convention.

When the deal was last put to Parliament, there were many objections but the one that caused the most noise was that the question of the so-called back-stop in relation to the border between the EU (in the shape of Ireland) and the UK (in the shape of Northern Ireland). There were other reasons that MPs voted the deal down but that was widely seen as the most important.

It was a stupid situation: the "meaningful vote" had already been delayed by several weeks because of exactly this issue. Hours before the vote in fact took place, the EU, represented primarily by Jean-Claude Junker, agreed terms to modify the backstop. What he refused to do was reduce them into a binding agreement. He said to trust him, the UK parliament laughed at that, even though the UK's Attorney-General wrote to Mrs May and told her that, in his view, the modification was enforceable. MPs said "if it's enforceable, why won't he sign it?" Good point, many felt.

And so, another few weeks go by and Junker sits back demanding that the UK shape the deal it wants - which has been his position all along and which generally results in a blanket "you're not having that: go back and find something acceptable to the EU."

And therein lies another question: Junker is EU President but does he have the authority to bind the EU by the power of his words alone?

Is he, a bureaucrat, able to decide for the EU Parliament? This is a question that, so far, this newspaper has not seen raised. If not, at what point does he need approval from the EU Parliament for the agreements he makes?

All of that aside, late last night, an amendment was agreed which it is hoped will mollify those who fear that the previous back-stop would (or could) trap the UK into the EU Customs Union (with all that entails and it's not a simple matter of goods crossing borders), with no exit possible. The Attorney General will, this morning, present his full advice on the revised agreement. This newspaper has reviewed the document and we can see no significant difference between what is now presented and what was there before.

With less than three weeks to go before the UK's Article 50 notice takes effect, there remain far more questions than answers.

If this version of the deal is rejected by the UK's MPs, Plan X is to vote on a no-deal exit and Plan Y is to vote on an appeal to the EU to extend the deadline. Plan Z is to withdraw the notice and start the whole two year period again. That's a rubbish option because Junker will still be in charge with his backing from EU federalists who want to demonstrate that any country that elects to leave will face a reckoning. Plan Y is pretty poor, too, because, if one reads the Lisbon Treaty, it seems that the two year period under Article 50 is absolute and, therefore, to extend it would require what amounts to an amendment to the Treaty and that would require unanimous approval from all members, some of which really do not want the UK to leave and are, therefore, unlikely to co-operate.

---------------- Advertising ----------------

World NomadsTravel Insurance | | Singapore Airlines