When MPs return from their summer recess, Britain's departure from the EU will be fast approaching. Here are the key dates and parliamentary battles on the road to Brexit. If and when ministers return with a deal, MPs will vote on the withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future partnership. This will act as the "meaningful vote" promised to MPs by the prime minister. The rules surrounding what happens if things don't go to plan were written into law in the Withdrawal Act: In the event that MPs refuse to approve the withdrawal agreement or no deal is reached by 21 January 2019, the government will have to present its plans for next steps to Parliament.
Under terms set out by EU leaders after a summit last week, Britain would be granted an extension until May 22 if Parliament passes the withdrawal agreement - one of two separate documents that make up the prime minister's deal - by March 29, the date theUK was originally scheduled to leave the bloc, or Brexit. In a move that caused a stir in the House of Commons, the government announced on Thursday that MPs would be asked to only approve the 585 page-long withdrawal agreement, agreed by negotiators from the UK and the EU last year. Along with the withdrawal agreement, which sets out the terms of departure, the Brexit deal also includes a 26 page-long political declaration, a non-legally binding text that sets out the terms of the future relationship between the EU and the UK. MPs on Friday, however, will not be asked to vote on the political declaration. According to Section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act, the government cannot ratify any deal until Parliament has approved it.
Theresa May will try to reassure people in Northern Ireland that she can secure a Brexit deal that avoids a hard border with Ireland during a visit later. In a speech to business leaders, the prime minister will pledge to secure a deal with the EU that "commands broad support" and a majority in parliament. The DUP leader Arlene Foster said the "toxic backstop" remains the problem. In Westminster, the working group of Leave and Remain MPs will continue to try to agree alternative solutions. However, European Union leaders have continued to rule out making changes to the withdrawal deal as agreed.
Theresa May will try to convince Tory Brexiteers and DUP MPs to back her withdrawal deal by resolving Irish backstop concerns, Cabinet sources say. Last week, Mrs May said she would focus on cross-party talks to get a Brexit deal accepted by Parliament. But it is understood she is now seeking to win approval from her own benches, with the government unlikely to win widespread Labour backing. Downing Street insisted that cross-party talks were continuing. Mrs May held a conference call with her Cabinet on Sunday.
Leaders across Europe have moved quickly to reject an attempt by UK Prime Minister Theresa May to re-open negotiations on Britain's divorce deal with the European Union, as British members of parliament voted to demand changes. When May signed the withdrawal agreement in November, after months of arduous and complex negotiations, both sides hailed it as the only way to avoid Britain crashing out of the bloc on March 29 without a plan. But the embattled prime minister failed to sell the agreement to her own parliament, which on Tuesday voted to send her back to demand that the deal be stripped of the "Irish backstop", a clause created to keep the border open with Ireland. The attempt, however, got short shrift from EU Council President Donald Tusk, who called round the other 27 EU capitals to coordinate a response and issued a firm statement ruling out renegotiation. "We continue to urge the UK government to clarify its intentions with respect to the next steps as soon as possible," Tusk's spokesman said.