May’s ‘Bold Offer’ on Brexit Deal Just a ‘Retread’ of Old Ideas

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at a European Parliament election campaign event in Bristol, southwest England, on May 17, 2019. - Despite voting in a referendum to leave the European Union in 2016 Britain is braced to take part in the European Parliament election on May 23. Britain's Labour …
TOBY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty
JOE MARKHAM

A new leaked document shows that Theresa May’s plans for a “new” Brexit withdrawal agreement contains no new ideas or any substantial changes.

Prime Minister Theresa May, whose attempts to pass a version of her EU-approved withdrawal treaty have so far failed three times, has said of this new version of the deal that it would “represent a new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons, with an improved package of measures that I believe can win new support”.

However, speaking of a summary of the deal as it had been given to ministers, one unnamed Whitehall source said “there is nothing new in this at all. It is simply a retread of old ideas.”

The new bill is said to not contain any new ideas about how to bridge the political divide with the opposition Labour Party over issues such as membership of effective membership of the EU Customs Union.

Nor does it offer any new thinking about the issue of the contentious Irish “backstop”, designed to prevent a so-called “hard border” between Britain’s Northern Ireland and EU member-state the Republic of Ireland by allowing Brussels to economically annex the former.

Instead, the bill is said to feature two ideas previously put forward by MPs. The first is a proposal put forward by Tory MP Sir Hugo Swire in January which would allow Parliament the final say on implementing the backstop, as well as an obligation for the Government to find an alternative to the backstop by the end of next year.

The second proposal added to the Withdrawal Bill was proposed by Labour MPs Lisa Nandy and Gareth Snell, and ensures that Parliament be given a say in the objectives of any future trade negotiations.

The new Withdrawal Bill also promises a role for the Northern Ireland assembly. This is an attempt by Theresa May to appease Northern Ireland’s Brexit-supporting Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose support currently gives the Conservative Party a narrow working majority in the House of Commons.

However, Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP chief whip, has already announced the party’s intention to vote against the new bill, saying “the difficulty remains for us that the backstop is still incorporated into the legislation. As things stand our position remains unchanged.”

One Tory MP, Sir Bill Cash, who has voted against the deal on the three occasions it has been proposed already, said, “this is pretty cosmetic stuff. It will not have any effect on Leave-supporting MPs and in fact there are votes coming back to our side from people who backed the deal last time.”

One such vote Mr Cash may be referring to is that of former Brexit Secretary David Davis, who has said publicly that he will not be supporting the new version of the withdrawal treaty.

Mrs May’s deal is expected to fail to pass the Commons for a fourth time at the beginning of June and it is hoped that she will resign shortly afterwards.

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