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Pound pops as May secures 'legally binding changes' to Brexit deal

By Oliver Haill

Date: Tuesday 12 Mar 2019

Pound pops as May secures 'legally binding changes' to Brexit deal

(Sharecast News) - Theresa May "secured legally binding changes" to her Brexit deal during a hastily arranged trip to meet European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Strasbourg on Monday night.

The Prime Minister said that UK's position was that it now believes it could unilaterally withdraw from the backstop if negotiations with the EU on the future relationship break down.

Earlier, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said that the government had "secured legally binding changes that strengthen and improve the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration".

The deal published by the EC comprises a joint, legally binding instrument on the withdrawal agreement and protocol on Northern Ireland; and a joint statement to supplement the political declaration.

The joint instrument, the government's motion explains, "reduces the risk" of UK being held in a backstop arrangement on the Irish border indefinitely and commits to both sides working together to find a replacement by December 2020.

This "improved deal", Lidington said, is what MPs will decide on at the meaningful vote on Tuesday, which he added would be the "only deal" on offer.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will publish his legal opinion "in good time" before the debate, Lidington said. This will need to be before 1030 GMT, which is the deadline for MPs to submit amendments for the meaningful vote.

Labour's shadow Brexit minister, Kier Starmer, dismissed the "improved deal" as just restating the joint letter from Donald Tusk and Juncker to May from January.

MP Steve Baker, chair of the hard-Brexit backing European Research Group, told Sky News he was "not very optimistic at the moment", while fellow Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was "a move in the right direction".

Sterling surged almost 1% to 1.3289 as Lidington spoke but came off that level in the following hour. Not long before 0800 GMT on Tuesday morning it was at 1.3229.

In a press conference with May, Juncker said "it is this deal or Brexit may not happen at all", adding that Irish premier Leo Varadkar was willing to accept the "legal instrument" to clarify the backstop in order to get a deal done.


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