LONDON • Brexit-supporting lawmakers who voted down British Prime Minister Theresa May's EU withdrawal deal in January have outlined demands for a revised treaty to ensure their support, the Sunday Times reported.
British lawmakers in January overwhelmingly rejected Mrs May's deal with the EU, with many unhappy with the "Irish backstop", an insurance measure to prevent the return of hard border controls between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland. Critics of the backstop said it could leave the country tied to European Union rules indefinitely.
Britain, due to exit the bloc on March 29, is trying to amend the deal to provide assurances that the backstop would not be indefinite.
Britain's Sunday Times said that hardline Brexit supporters from Mrs May's Conservative Party had drawn up a document outlining three tests the deal must pass to gain their support. These are a "clearly worded, legally binding, treaty-level clause which unambiguously overrides" the text of the withdrawal agreement, with language that goes beyond emphasising the temporary nature of the backstop and a clear means to exit the backstop if subsequent trade talks fail.
The newspaper said the plan had been drawn up with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Northern Irish party which props up Mrs May's minority government.
If Mrs May secures the demands, she would win the backing of the DUP and the Brexit-supporting lawmakers in a vote on the deal which she has promised would be held before March 12, the Times said.
The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier last Friday said that the bloc was ready to give Britain more guarantees that the backstop was only intended to be temporary and used for a "worst-case scenario". "We know that there are misgivings in Britain that the backstop could keep Britain forever connected to the EU," he told Germany's Die Welt newspaper.
British Trade Secretary Liam Fox yesterday welcomed the offer by the pro-Brexit lawmakers, telling the BBC it was a "genuine attempt to map out common ground".
He urged MPs to "do the honourable thing and vote for the Prime Minister's agreement", so that Britain can leave the EU as scheduled on March 29.
Mr Fox said it was unlikely that the EU would offer Britain a long delay to Brexit because of the upcoming European elections.
He added that while it was "entirely possible" Britain would leave the bloc as scheduled on March 29, an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period may be necessary in order to deliver a smooth exit from the bloc.
Mrs May has said any extension should not be beyond the end of June.