The European Commission has issued a stark warning that a no-deal Brexit will lead to a hard border in Ireland.
Spokesman Margaritis Schinas said there was “nothing new” in Mrs May’s statement to MPs on Monday, in which she promised to seek a means to keep the Irish border open in a way which can win the support of Parliament.
“If you like to push me and speculate on what might happen in a no-deal scenario in Ireland, I think it’s pretty obvious, you will have a hard border", he said.
“Our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and everything that we have been doing for years with our tools, instruments and programmes will have to take inevitably into account this fact.
“So, of course, we are for peace, of course we stand behind the Good Friday Agreement, but that’s what a no-deal scenario would entail.”
His pessimism was echoed by the Irish government with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar saying that in the event of no-deal, Ireland and the UK would have to negotiate a new agreement on "full alignment" of customs and regulations to avoid a hard border.
While Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said Dublin would face a “very difficult job” to avoid the need for physical infrastructure on the border with Northern Ireland if Mrs May’s deal failed.
These warnings came as MPs tabled amendments in Parliament to the Prime Minister’s deal, the rejection of which by an overwhelming 230 votes last week has thrown into doubt proposals for a backstop to keep the Irish border open.
In a break from usual procedures, the amendments will be voted on by MPson January 29 in what will be yet another day of high Brexit drama in the Commons which could put Mrs May under intense political pressure to change course.
Who is tabling an amendment?
One plan, tabled by Tory MP Dame Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey, would effectively rule out a no-deal Brexit.
Another, from Conservative former attorney general Dominic Grieve, would give MPs powers to take control of the parliamentary agenda on a series of days in the run-up to the official date of EU withdrawal on March 29 to pass resolutions on the way ahead.
A cross-party group of MPs, including Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Tory former minister Nick Boles, is seeking to give time for a Bill to suspend the Article 50 withdrawal process if there is no new deal with Brussels by the end of February.
Labour’s Hilary Benn is hoping to secure a range of indicative votes on various Brexit options.
The chairman of the Commons Northern Ireland Committee, Conservative Andrew Murrison, has also put forward proposals – which he said were designed to appeal to “moderate MPs who just want Brexit sorted” – for a time limit on the backstop.
Labour’s frontbench tabled its own amendment calling for a vote on the party’s plan for a customs union with the EU and on whether to legislate for a public vote.
The move was welcomed as “a step forward” by Labour supporters of a second EU referendum including David Lammy, but shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey insisted it did not tie the party into backing a new vote “in any way”.