- Theresa May heading for another defeat on her Brexit deal after her Attorney General refuses to change his legal advice on the controversial backstop.
- Geoffrey Cox says the legal risk of the United Kingdom being kept in the Northern Irish backstop against its will is "unchanged."
- This big blow comes ahead of a crunch House of Commons vote on the deal pn Tuesday evening.
- If defeated, May will trigger a series of votes on delaying Brexit.
LONDON — Theresa May is heading for another defeat on her Brexit deal with the European Union after the Attorney General refused to change his legal advice on the revised Withdrawal Agreement.
Geoffrey Cox told MPs that the "legal risk" of the United Kingdom being kept in the controversial Northern Ireland backstop against its will remained "unchanged."
However, he said the deal did "reduce the risk" of the UK being held in their indefinitely.
It comes as the House of Commons prepares to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement for a second time, having rejected a previous version of the deal by a record-breaking margin of 230 votes in January.
The UK prime minister traveled to Strasbourg, France on Monday evening, where she agreed a series of add-ons to the deal with EU leaders including European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker.
Critics of the deal — the European Research Group of pro-Brexit MPs plus the Democratic Unionist Party which props up May’s government — will decide whether to vote for the revised deal after hearing legal advice from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon.
If the prime minister’s deal is rejected for a second time, MPs will later this week have the opportunity to vote to either accept a no-deal Brexit or delay the UK’s exit from EU in order to pursue an alternative.
Scroll down for the latest developments in Westminster. All times are in GMT.
11:30: Cox says legal facts of the backstop are "unchanged"
The UK government
Ahead of his Commons appearance this afternoon, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has published his legal advice on the revised Brexit deal — and it doesn’t look good for May.
While Cox says that the tweaks to the deal "reduce the risk" of the UK being stuck in the backstop indefinitely against its will, the "legal risk remains unchanged" that this outcome is possible and will take effect until a suitable alternative is produced.
Here is the key paragraph:
"However, the legal risk remains unchanged that if through no such demonstrable failure of either party, but simply because of intractable differences, that situation does arise, the United Kingdom would have, at least while the fundamental circumstances remained the same, no internationally lawful means of exiting the Protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement."
Remember, May has been under intense pressure from pro-Brexit MPs and the Democratic Unionist Party to give the UK a fixed route out of the backstop arrangement, either through a fixed time-limit or a unilateral exit mechanism. This tweaks fall short of delivering either.
Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, said "the Attorney General has confirmed that there have been no significant changes to the Withdrawal Agreement despite the legal documents that were agreed last night."
He added: "The Government’s strategy is now in tatters."
Conservative MPs are meeting in Westminster right now to discuss the Cox’s advice…
11:00: MPs await Cox’s crucial legal advice
Leon Neal/Getty Images
Welcome to this Business Insider liveblog of another historic day in UK politics.
Members of Parliament will on Tuesday evening vote whether to accept Theresa May’s tweaked Brexit deal with the European Union, or reject the agreement for a second time.
The first big piece of action of the day is set to come at around 12:30, when Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will present his legal interpretation of the Brexit deal to MPs.
Critics of May’s deal who she is trying to win over — pro-Brexit Conservative and the Democratic Unionist Party — say they will decide how to vote this evening once they’ve heard Cox deliver his statement in the House of Commons. It’s a make-or-break moment for the deal.
It could also be a make-or-break moment for May’s control over the Brexit process.
If her deal is voted down for a second time, MPs will this week have an opportunity to vote for an extension to the Article 50 process, which would delay Brexit and possibly pave the way to a softer Brexit, or even another referendum.
Remain-voting Conservative MP Nick Boles warns his pro-Brexit colleagues that MPs who oppose a "hard" Brexit will move to take control of the process if the deal is rejected tonight.
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