MEPs warn they could veto Brexit withdrawal agreement if backstop is unworkable

Guy Verhofstadt's Brexit steering group said the UK needed to bring forward a 'workable and legally operative' backstop proposal. Picture by PA Wire

BRITAIN must bring forward a "workable and legally operative proposal" for the Irish border backstop or risk any withdrawal deal being voted down by MEPs, the European Parliament's Brexit steering group has warned.

The warning comes after Guy Verhofstadt's group of MEPs was briefed on the negotiations that have taken place over the last two weeks between the EU and the British government.

Its statement is seen as a ratcheting up of pressure on Theresa May to get a viable backstop proposal in place before the withdrawal agreement goes before MEPs.

The group notes that the proposed transition period between next March and the end of December 2020 can only come into force "as part of the withdrawal agreement".

It warned that MEPs would "accept no backsliding from past commitments", specifically those agreed in December's Joint Report, where the EU mapped out its definition of the backstop

"As recognised by the prime minister in her letter to President Tusk of 19 March 2018, the 'backstop' must avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, protect the Good Friday Agreement and safeguard the integrity of the single market, customs union and common commercial policy," the steering group said.

Mr Verhofstadt's group said it was incumbent on the UK government not to delay coming forward with its own "workable and legally operative proposal for a backstop".

"The Brexit Steering Group stresses that without a credible, genuine and operational backstop, it will be impossible for the European Parliament to give its consent to the withdrawal agreement," the MEPs said.

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