Brexit hangs in balance over tweaked deal


Prime Minister Theresa May rushed to Strasbourg on Monday for last-minute talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in a bid to salvage the Brexit deal, with British MPs set to vote Tuesday on whether to accept the withdrawal agreement.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks after the results of the vote on Brexit deal in Parliament in London, Britain, March 12, 2019.

Commenting on the Strasbourg agreements, the Attorney General wrote: "I now consider that the legally binding provisions of the Joint Instrument and the content of the Unilateral Declaration reduce the risk that the United Kingdom could be indefinitely and involuntarily detained within the Protocol's provisions at least in so far as that situation had been brought about by the bad faith or want of best endeavours of the EU".

On the legal opinion, Mr Dodds said: "We know from the Irish govt and from others what they see as the ultimate destination for Northern Ireland - the backstop is the bottom line".

Even if they formally get on board, though, there will be a rump of super-committed Tory eurosceptics - both inside and outside the ERG - who will always vote against any version of May's deal. Picture: PA What changes has Theresa May agreed on the withdrawal agreement?

May announced three documents - a joint instrument, a joint statement and a unilateral declaration - which she said were aimed at addressing the Irish backstop, the most contentious part of the divorce deal she agreed with the European Union in November.

European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: "Brexit was about taking back control".

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Samuel Tombs, the chief United Kingdom economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics said on Twitter that it was "pretty clear" markets think Cox's legal advice didn't give enough cover for euroskeptic lawmakers to change tack. However, the text of the 585-page withdrawal agreement remained unchanged.

The vote puts the world's fifth largest economy in uncharted territory with no obvious way forward; exiting the European Union without a deal, delaying the March 29 divorce date, a snap election or even another referendum are all now possible.

The immediate reaction was cautious from Brexit-supporting lawmakers and from the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up her minority government. But if May loses Tuesday's vote, she'll back to square one - leading to a second vote on Wednesday and a possible third one on Thursday.

An opposition Labour Party spokesman said this meant she had "given up any pretence of leading the country".

While she lost, the margin of defeat was smaller than the record 230-vote loss her deal suffered in January.

Sterling, jumped as high as $1.3290 as some investors bolstered bet the prime minister could secure a divorce deal before Britain's scheduled March 29 departure from the EU.