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Battle begins for MPs to take control of Brexit plan B | Politics News

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The battle is on for MPs trying to change the course of Brexit, as they drum up support ahead of crucial votes tomorrow.

Rival factions are trying to win over a majority in parliament with the potential to delay Brexit or drastically change the much-derided Irish backstop.

At the centre of the row are a series of amendments MPs are proposing to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans.

Crunch meetings are taking place in Westminster today, with those behind the amendments attempting to convince enough MPs to see them pass.

Theresa May makes a statement following winning a confidence vote
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Theresa May could see crucial changes to her Brexit plan imposed

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who previously compared Mrs May’s plans to a “suicide vest”, has given the prime minister an unexpected boost by claiming she is planning to fight for a “freedom clause” from the backstop.

That is the insurance policy that the UK could fall back into after it leaves the EU if a trade deal is not completed by the time the transition period ends, at the end of 2020.

:: Vote – How should MPs change course of Brexit?

Mr Johnson wrote in a column for the Daily Telegraph: “I have heard it from the lips of very senior sources in government… that this country is about to seek proper binding legal change to the current lamentable withdrawal agreement.”

One senior Conservative is leading the charge of Brexiteer MPs in an effort for the backstop to be replaced.

Sir Graham Brady, chair of the group of Conservative MPs known as the 1922 committee, told Sky News the Brexit deal defeat earlier this month was “quite shallow” because politicians were only unhappy with “one aspect”.

His amendment would force the UK to “replace” the backstop with “alternative arrangements”.

Those could include setting an end date or allowing for either side to unilaterally pull out of it.

Sir Graham said his proposal was a “deliberate attempt to meet the expectations” set out in personal conversations with Mrs May and the leader of party propping up her government, the Democratic Unionist Party.

Calling on fellow Conservatives to support it, the Altrincham and Sale West MP said: “It does seem to me this is a critical moment when a little bit of flexibility, a willingness to compromise is important to move things forward.”

Sir Graham Brady
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Sir Graham Brady wants the Irish backstop to be replaced

He dismissed other amendments as “counter-productive” and warned of those that could see Article 50 extended: “Delay is the enemy of decision – and we need a decision.”

Sir Graham also insisted there was no confirmation the government will back his amendment, but a Tory MP told Sky News it was already being “pushed” by the whips.

Members of the pro-Brexit lobby European Research Group, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, are expected to meet tonight to decide whether to back it.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper is the other senior MP whose amendment has a good chance of passing on Tuesday.

Yvette Cooper
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Yvette Cooper wants to avoid a no-deal Brexit

It would see MPs given a debate and vote on delaying Brexit until the end of 2019, if no deal has been ratified by the end of February.

The home affairs select committee chair said she was “worried we are going to drift by accident into a chaotic no-deal in March”.

“Everyone is shouting but we need some calm, common sense,” she added.

Emma Reynolds, a Labour backbencher, told Sky News there was “quite a good chance” of her amendment passing.

“I do think people are concerned about a no-deal and therefore need more time to do a deal properly,” she said.

House of Commons. Pic: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy
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MPs will vote on a series of amendments tomorrow. Pic: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy

Labour MPs will get a proper showdown on whether leader Jeremy Corbyn will throw his weight behind it too at a meeting tonight.

But regardless of how the votes go, Theresa May will have to hold another full vote on her deal or a possibly tweaked version, if the EU approve.

Downing Street said on Monday work to address concerns about the backstop was “ongoing”, adding that Mrs May would like to have the final vote “as soon as possible”.

Theresa May is meeting senior Conservatives and MEPs in Number 10 to listen to their views.

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