The House of Commons will get the chance to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal in the week commencing January 14.
Confirming the news in Parliament today, Mrs May told MPs she had won ‘fresh assurances’ from the EU over the Irish border backstop and urged them to pass the deal.
The Parliamentary debate on the withdrawal agreement and a planned meaningful vote on it were called off last week after it became clear Mrs May was heading for a heavy defeat.
With the backstop cited by its opponents as a major sticking point, Mrs May returned to Brussels last week to seek EU guarantees that it would not be permanent.
Although the EU insisted that there would be no renegotiation and appeared to offer her nothing new, Mrs May told the Commons today that there had been movement.
The Northern Ireland backstop arrangement in the withdrawal agreement would enforce a legally-binding customs arrangement with the EU.
It would only be activated in the event that a deal cannot be reached that avoids the return of a hard border in Ireland by the end of the Brexit transition period in 2021.
But MPs including Tory Brexiteers and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party said they would not vote for it amid fears the backstop could become permanent.
They feared that this would create an ongoing regulatory barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country that could not be ended without EU approval.
But Mrs May told MPs today that the Irish backstop was ‘not a plot to trap the UK’ and that she was optimistic of securing ‘political and legal assurance’ of this.
She also reiterated that there would be no second EU referendum, claiming it would not settle the divisions and ‘do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who threatened to trigger a no confidence vote in the Government unless a new date was set for the vote, accused her of wasting time.
He said Mrs May was leading the UK into ‘a national crisis’ and added: “The deal is unchanged and is not going to change. The House must get on with the vote.”
Ian Blackford of the SNP said the government had made itself a ‘laughing stock’ and Parliament should ‘take control of the situation and find a solution.’
An EU spokesman said today that it had provided ‘clarifications’ on the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop and that ‘no further meetings were foreseen.’
Mrs May’s deal with the EU sets out the terms of the UK’s exit on March 29 next year and an outline of future relations between the two.
It must be approved by the UK and European Parliaments before it can take effect, but with domestic opposition widespread, it still faces being voted down by MPs in January.
This increases the chances of the UK leaving without a deal in March, although more than 60 MPs from all parties have written to Mrs May calling on her to rule this out.