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Legal risk of Brexit backstop 'unchanged' after tweaks, UK attorney general says

The last-minute changes to the U.K.'s withdrawal agreement with the EU reduce the risk that Britain could be indefinitely tied up with the backstop solution on the border dividing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, though the legal risk remains unchanged, U.K. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said.

The U.K. would have "no internationally lawful means of exiting" the backstop arrangement, "save by agreement," Cox said.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on March 11 agreed on a "joint instrument with comparable legal weight" to the withdrawal agreement prohibiting the EU from applying the Irish backstop indefinitely. Under the fresh proposals, if the EU still applies an indefinite backstop, the U.K. can challenge the arrangement through arbitration and suspend it. The U.K. and the EU also agreed on a joint statement that commits both sides to begin work immediately to replace the backstop, with alternative arrangements by the end of December 2020.

The pound slipped 1.08% against the dollar to $1.30 at 7:29 a.m. ET, shortly after Cox's legal advice was released.

U.K. lawmakers are due to vote on May's Brexit deal at 7:00 p.m. London time. If a deal is not passed, lawmakers will proceed with another vote tomorrow on a no-deal Brexit.