UK’s top anti-EU MP softens position on Brexit deal
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UK’s top anti-EU MP softens position on Brexit deal

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent member of the ruling Conservative Party, said Wednesday that he would be satisfied if the government returns to the parliament with a Brexit deal next month that could ensure the so-called Irish backstop would be temporary if it is implemented at the end of 2020. “I can live with the de facto removal of the backstop ... I mean that if there is a clear date that says the backstop ends, and that is in the text of the treaty or equivalent of the text of the treaty,” Rees-Mogg said in an interview with the BBC radio. The backstop is a mechanism to avoid a return of hard borer between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland if the UK and EU fail to reach a trade deal to set out rules for their post-Brexit relations. The clause caused a draft Brexit deal negotiated between British Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU to suffer a historic defeat in the Commons last month. May is expected to return to the chamber on March 12 with a revised deal that ensures backstop would not entrap UK in EU’s customs union for an indefinite time after Brexit. Rees-Mogg said any date proposed for the termination of the backstop should come in the lifetime of parliament which ends in 2022.   The lawmaker, who heads the powerful European Research Group (ERG) in the Commons had earlier demanded a full removal of the backstop, a line followed by many other pro-Brexit Conservatives. His softened tone on the issue comes a day after May signaled that if lawmakers reject her Brexit deal in the second bid, she would allow a vote on delaying Brexit for three months beyond the official withdrawal date which is March 29. It also comes amid reports that the opposition Labour Party is willing to capitalize on the short delay to Brexit to push for a second referendum on the issue, a move that could abolish Brexit altogether. In a separate interview to the Sky News on Wednesday, Rees-Mogg said May’s offering of a vote on delay had highly increased the chance for the extension of the formal two-year Brexit negotiation period. The EU has mostly rejected Britain’s demands for changes to the Brexit deal signed off in November. The Europeans have also insisted that they would only allow a delay to Brexit beyond the end of March if they know what outcome it would have on the political situation in the British parliament.

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