British MPs could be given a vote on a revised Brexit deal as early as next week as talks with the European Union have been constructive, finance minister Philip Hammond says.
Unless Prime Minister Theresa May can get a Brexit deal approved by the British parliament, then she will have to decide whether to delay Brexit or thrust the world’s fifth-largest economy into chaos by leaving without a deal on March 29.
When asked by the BBC what would happen next week, Mr Hammond said: “There may be an opportunity to bring a vote back to the House of Commons – there may be an opportunity – but that will depend on the progress that is made in the next few days.”
Mr Hammond said talks between Mrs May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday had been good and constructive.
“They were good and constructive talks yesterday,” Mr Hammond said, adding that the two sides were talking about giving some guarantees that the Irish border backstop could only be a “temporary arrangement”.
“That is a word that hasn’t been used before and I think that is significant,” he said.
“Both sides have acknowledged that the political declaration could be expanded, for example, to address concerns that have been expressed in some parts of the House of Commons about workers rights.”
On Wednesday Mrs May said progress was made in solving the impasse over backstop arrangements for the Irish border.
“I’ve underlined the need for us to see legally binding changes to the backstop that ensure that it cannot be indefinite. That’s what is required… We’ve agreed that work to find a solution will continue at pace,” May told international broadcasters after meeting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.
“Time is of the essence, and it’s in both our interests that when the UK leaves the EU, that it does so in an orderly way. So we’ve made progress.”
Mr Juncker and Mrs May agreed to speak again before the end of February.
The PM believes that gaining legally binding assurances the backstop will not extend indefinitely is the key to winning the support of MPs for her deal.