Prime Minister Theresa May insisted that she has secured “legally binding” changes to the Brexit deal after travelling to Strasbourg on Monday evening ahead of a crucial Commons vote on Tuesday. Mrs May said she “passionately believed” her Brexit deal addressed concerns raised by MPs who feared the backstop would keep the UK in a customs arrangement with the EU indefinitely. Former Brexit secretary David Davis claimed that the add-ons to the withdrawal agreement could “be acceptable” for him to support the deal, depending on Geoffrey Cox’s analysis, as he insisted the EU had “blinked”.
Speaking on LBC with Nick Ferrari, David Davis claimed the EU had “blinked” in the final stages of negotiations. LBC’s Political Editor, Theo Usherwood wrote on Twitter: “Ferrari: has the EU blinked?
“David Davis: ‘Yes, I think they have. They will cover it up but they have. You must never take what the EU says as God’s honest truth.’”
Mr Usherwood added: “David Davis says the vote is likely to pass if the Attorney-General is positive. If the A-G is “negative or uncertain” then the vote will “fail big”, by more than 50 or so, Davis adds.”
Speaking on talkRADIO, Mr Davis said: “If Geoffrey Cox says that this has legal force, the requirement to work on the alternative arrangements, the date of the end of 2020, that is key, and our right to walk away. And independent arbitration, by the way, not arbitration but the European Court of Justice, which none of us views as independent.
“All of those things together make this just about acceptable to me. But, it depends very very heavily on a robust clear response from Mr Cox. If Geoffrey Cox is at all equivocal about it, then I think it will fall again.”
He added: “The point is, whether or not it has legal force, that is what matters, nothing else.”
Mr Davis later said: “This is by no means what I would have liked but it will deliver Brexit.”
He added: “This is a way to deliver a proper Brexit – it’s a lot worse than what I would have hoped for – it’s significantly better than what was presented in December”.
Political Editor for talkRADIO, Ross Kempsell, wrote on Twitter: “Wow – David Davis sounding like he could vote for the deal – tells @talkRADIO ‘it all hinges on what Cox says…if Cox says that this has legal force – the requirement on alternative arrangements, date, arbitration… all those together make this just about acceptable to me.”
At a joint press conference with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday night, Mrs May said the three new documents agreed provided the legal assurances critics of her stance had called for.
Theresa May said: “What we have secured is very clearly that the backstop cannot be indefinite. Cannot become permanent. It is only temporary. If it is the case that we were ever to get into the backstop.
“The legal instrument that we have agreed is an addition to the Withdrawal Agreement. It has the same legal status as the withdrawal agreement. It is legally binding.
“That is what Parliament asked us to secure and that is what we have secured.”
The legal view of the changes taken by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will be an important factor in the lead-up to the Commons vote.
Mrs May said: “The Attorney General is independent. He will come to his decision. He will publish his legal opinion.”
The European Commission President insisted there would be no further negotiations on the issue.
Mr Juncker said: “There will be no new negotiations. It is this. In politics, sometimes you get a second chance. It is what we do with the second chance that counts. Because there will be no third chance.
“There will be no further interpretation of the interpretations and no further assurances on the reassurances. Let us be crystal clear about the choice – it is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all.”
The DUP said it will carefully analyse the Brexit deal add-ons on whether it would now back the withdrawal agreement.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he hoped MPs at Westminster would back the deal as “there is no alternative”.
He said: “An orderly Brexit is crucial for both the EU and the UK.” I hope that the House of Commons will support the agreement reached by Theresa May. There is no alternative.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has described the outcome of last night’s meeting between the Prime Minister and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as “positive” and hoped MPs in the UK would now back the agreement.
But, in a statement posted to Twitter, Mr Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer warned: “Overnight I have looked carefully at what has been agreed by the Prime Minister with the European Union in relation to the backstop.
“Having studied the documents, I would be surprised if they are sufficient to enable the Attorney General to change the central plank of his December legal advice.”