British PM May considering amending Good Friday deal to solve Brexit deadlock: Daily Telegraph

With just weeks to go before Britain is due to leave the EU, British PM Theresa May will return to Parliament on Monday to set out how she plans to try to break the Brexit deadlock.
With just weeks to go before Britain is due to leave the EU, British PM Theresa May will return to Parliament on Monday to set out how she plans to try to break the Brexit deadlock.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - British Prime Minister Theresa May is considering solving the Brexit deadlock by amending the Good Friday agreement after abandoning attempts to negotiate a cross-party deal, the Daily Telegraph reported late on Sunday (Jan 20).

Mrs May's Good Friday plan would see the United Kingdom and Ireland agree on a separate set of principles or add text to "support or reference" the 1998 peace deal setting out how both sides would guarantee an open border after Brexit, the newspaper reported.

With just weeks to go before Britain is due to leave the European Union, Mrs May will return to Parliament on Monday to set out how she plans to try to break the Brexit deadlock after her deal was rejected by lawmakers last week.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement that largely ended years of violence between Irish republicans and pro-British unionists, border posts were removed and the province was given a power-sharing structure where both communities were represented. 

According to The Daily Telegraph, senior EU sources have called Mrs May’s new plan a non-starter while British government sources are “sceptical” that it would work, as the plan is likely to prove controversial and would require the consent of all the parties involved in Northern Ireland.

Mr Neale Richmond, a member of Ireland’s governing Fine Gael party and chairman of the upper house of Parliament’s Brexit committee, said the Good Friday Agreement cannot be renegotiated lightly.

“The #GFA is an international peace treaty, lodged with the #UN – it also has a mandate of 94% in Ireland and 71% in Northern Ireland. Not something that can be renegotiated lightly or easily to meet #Brexit whims,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times reported on plans to seek a bilateral treaty with the Irish government as a way to remove the contentious backstop arrangement.

Sky News reported that Mrs May is expected to set out plans to try and remove the Irish backstop, in an effort to win around the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party.

Earlier, Trade Minister Liam Fox said Parliament cannot be allowed to hijack Brexit, in a warning to lawmakers who want to take more control over Britain's departure from the EU.

As she tries to navigate a way through competing visions for the future - from a second referendum to staying in the EU - Mrs May told ministers on Sunday that she was looking for ways to make the so-called Northern Irish backstop more acceptable to her Conservative Party and Northern Irish allies.

The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Mr Jeremy Corbyn, was expected to reiterate on Monday his willingness to talk to PM May on ways to break the deadlock over Brexit but only if she rules out a so-called no-deal Brexit scenario. 

Mr Corbyn has said he will enter into talks with Mrs May only if she rules out the scenario, in which Britain leaves without an agreement and one that some businesses say would be disastrous for the economy. 

Labour said some of its top team would visit businesses around the country on Monday to discuss the dangers of a “no deal” Brexit.

“We’re ready to talk to the government and others in Parliament about a sensible alternative plan, but not while Theresa May is wasting £171,000 (S$298,000) an hour of taxpayers’ money on dangerous and unnecessary no-deal brinkmanship,” Mr Corbyn said in a statement. 

“If the Prime Minister is serious about finding a solution that can command support in Parliament and bring our country together, she must listen to the majority of MPs (lawmakers), as well as members of her own Cabinet, and take ‘no deal’ off the table.”