Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox has reportedly abandoned efforts to win serious concessions from the European Union on the unpopular “Soft Brexit” deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May.
The charismatic Brexiteer was sent to Brussels to try and win concessions on the controversial “backstop” in the Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom negotiated by Theresa May, after it was rejected in the House of Commons by a historic margin.
Parliamentarians were concerned that the backstop — which would see the EU effectively annex the British province of Northern Ireland for customs and regulatory purposes while mainland Great Britain would be incorporated into an EU-controlled “singles customs territory” — is not time-limited, and the British government would not be allowed to leave it without the EU’s permission.
Cox had been seeking a so-called “break clause” which would allow the United Kingdom to walk away from the backstop on its own initiative, or at least a legally-binding agreement that it could not persist indefinitely, but has been stonewalled by the EU’s negotiating team and is instead seeking changes to the “arbitration mechanism” deployed should one side express a desire to end the arrangements.
The EU is said to be refusing to countenance Cox’s suggestion that backstop arbitration should be overseen by an “independent” body outside the jurisdiction of its own Court of Justice, however, making it difficult to see how any tweaks to the mechanism currently laid out could be anything but cosmetic.
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“This seems to indicate a satirical approach to fulfilling the Brady amendment which the Government whipped for,” remarked Steve Baker MP, a former Brexit minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) who resigned from Mrs May’s government along with the department’s inaugural Secretary of State, David Davis, after the proposed terms of her Withdrawal Agreement became clear.
“The Brady amendment required that you replace the backstop with alternative arrangements. That’s light years away from tweaking arbitration mechanisms. Nevertheless I don’t want to pre-judge the work of the Star Chamber,” Baker added sarcastically.
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“The Attorney-General continues to pursue legally binding changes to the backstop that are necessary to ensure it cannot be indefinite,” a Downing Street spokesman insisted.
“We will not however comment on the specifics of the negotiations at this critical stage.”
Parliament is currently due to hold another “meaningful vote” on the Prime Minister’s deal — even if it is essentially unchanged — by March 12th, with Brexit scheduled with or without it on March 29th.
The Remainer-dominated House of Commons and a large section of Mrs May’s Cabinet are opposed to leaving the EU without a deal, however, and it is widely accepted they will attempt to delay or outright block it if one does not materialise.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) January 28, 2019