May flew to Strasbourg last on Monday to try to secure a last-minute deal with the EU. Picture: Vincent Kessler/AP
May flew to Strasbourg last on Monday to try to secure a last-minute deal with the EU. Picture: Vincent Kessler/AP

Brexit breakthrough as May secures win

THE British government says it has secured "legally binding changes" from the European Union to overcome a key stumbling block on the Brexit deal.

Cabinet office minister David Lidington told the House of Commons on Monday night that the two sides agreed on a "joint instrument" clarifying the withdrawal deal.

The measure is intended to reassure Britain it won't be trapped forever in a mechanism designed to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Concerns over the border measure were the main reason Britain's parliament rejected the deal in January. Politicians are due to vote on it again Tuesday.

The Sun reports Mr May and her aides all looked pleased when they arrived in France and went into talks about how to get the Brexit deal through.

But Government sources tried to play down the last-ditch dash, stressing that the chat did not mean a deal was definitely on the cards.

The PM was expected to give a statement following talks but is still "in negotiations", her deputy David Lidington said.

She will still hold a second vote on her Brexit deal tomorrow.

Mr Lidington told MPs in a late night sitting in the Commons that the PM had secured legally binding changes that "strengthened and improved" the withdrawal agreement.

EU sources said the two sides are set to agree a joint interpretative instrument which will set in law new promises on how to get out of the hated Northern Irish backstop if needed.

It could also include an addition to the political declaration too - a statement on what a future relationship between the UK and the EU would look like - which will promise to work together for a free trade deal.

But talks appeared to be stuck over the final point - a UK statement which would help the Attorney General change his legal advice on whether the backstop would last forever or not.

Mrs May's scramble across to Europe was accidentally slipped out by Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney earlier, who said Mrs May was going "to try and finalise an agreement, if that's possible".

The Irish cabinet are set to meet too shortly, and the DUP's Arlene Foster is in London talking to her MPs.

Brexiteer Steve Baker said he was waiting to see the text of the deal, telling Sky News: "We may or may not be able to support it. We will make our own decisions.

"If in 5 to 10 years we found ourselves trapped in the backstop, in the customs union, people would rightly curse the day we had voted for the withdrawal agreement and ask why we'd been so weak."

Their group of lawyers will meet to analyse whether they think Britain can exit the backstop or not.

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