Despite claims from Downing Street that Theresa May had managed to obtain last minute legal commitments from the European Union, the deal she has brought back to parliament contains little to bring on board suspicious MPs.
Late last night, May hurried back to Westminster from meetings in Strasbourg with Jean-Claude Juncker, to let parliament vote on what she described as new “legally binding changes” to the withdrawal agreement. She claimed these changes would give the UK more power to extract itself from the Northern Ireland backstop, saying: “The deal that MPs voted on in January was not strong enough on the backstop. And legally binding changes were needed to get it right. We have now agreed them.”
However, the advice from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was devastating to the PM’s case, as he made clear that the UK could still not leave the backstop unilaterally. Whilst he did urge MPs to support the deal, he was stated that little had changed in the reality of the backstop.
Following Cox’s advice, members of both the DUP and the European Research Group (ERG) have signalled that they will not back May’s deal, which could leave the PM defeated by a similar figure as the last time she brought her deal before parliament, where MPs rejected her Brexit deal by a resounding majority of 230.
MPs will vote on the deal at 7pm tonight, with no delays expected as the speaker has confirmed that he has not selected any amendments to the motion.