British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her decision to give the House of Commons a last chance to deliver Brexit under the guidelines of a deal that she hammered out with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker later last year.
According to May, British MPs will get a vote on whether to hold another referendum if they back the EU Withdrawal Agreement in Commons, she said. “The Government will, therefore, include in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum,” said May.
The new Brexit bill May plans to present to Commons will also contain new “guarantees” on workers’ rights, environmental protections, as well a customs compromise that is designed to resolve the contentious issue of the status of the Irish border post-Brexit.
“We will introduce a new Workers’ Rights Bill to ensure UK workers enjoy rights that are every bit as good as, or better than, those provided for by EU rules,” said May, vowing to discuss further amendments with trade unions and business. “The new Brexit deal will also guarantee there will be no change in the level of environmental protection when we leave the EU.”
The establishment of a new independent Office of Environmental Protection is also part of May’s plan. “The new Brexit deal will also place a legal duty on the Government to seek as close to frictionless trade with the EU in goods as possible, subject to being outside the Single Market and ending freedom of movement. In order to deliver this, the UK will maintain common rules with the EU for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at the border. This will be particularly important for our manufacturing firms and trade unions, protecting thousands of jobs that depend on just-in-time supply chains,” added May.
The key points of the May’s new Brexit deal include a guarantee of a Commons vote on another referendum before the Brexit agreement is ratified, with the government honouring the outcome, along with a vote on different customs options, including a government proposal for a temporary customs union for goods.
The legal obligation for the UK to come up with an alternative to the Northern Ireland backstop by the end of 2020 remains and the new bill guarantees that if the backstop becomes effective, Northern Ireland will remain aligned with the rest of the UK and will not be part of a separate customs territory.
The European Commission did not immediately react to May’s speech, being rather laconic on Wednesday’s midday briefing. “We are following events closely and patiently, we have no more comments to make,” were the words of the EU executive chief spokesperson.