For the first time in this difficult process, the Conservative Party has rallied round a single position; that the Prime Minister should return to Brussels to renegotiate the Irish Protocol, or backstop. Virtually every Conservative MP united behind Sir Graham Brady’s amendment which calls for “alternative arrangement” to the backstop as it currently stands. After Mrs May’s deal was rejected two weeks ago, EU leaders called on the British Parliament to make its position clear. It has done this now and has indicated that the deal on the table will pass, subject to changes to the backstop.
Of course, this is not going to be easy, but I have great confidence in the Prime Minister. As you know her deal gives Parliament control over immigration, our laws and our money whilst protecting businesses and jobs. She has reached a position which a majority in Parliament can support, I believe she will also persuade the EU to come to an acceptable position. The negotiations are going to be tough but she remains determined that we will leave the EU on March 29th as planned and in doing so honour the result of the referendum. I had the opportunity to speak to the Prime Minister in the lobbies during votes and offered my full support in taking a robust approach to these negotiations.
Only one other amendment of the seven we voted on was successful last night. This was a cross party motion from Dame Caroline Spelman (Cons) and Jack Dromey (Lab) rejecting the option of leaving the EU without a deal. I am not surprised that this was successful, because a large majority of MPs do not want a ‘no deal’ outcome, but this this is not binding. I did not vote for it because, as the Prime Minister said last night, “simply opposing the deal is not enough to stop it”. The Prime Minister will work tirelessly to make sure that she achieves a legally binding agreement which everyone can support.
Last night represented a huge milestone on the road to leaving the EU. I have always advocated compromise because parliamentary arithmetic and the wide-range of different views in Westminster and across the nation means that the perfect Brexit deal cannot be achieved for everyone. I am delighted that my colleagues are now prepared, as I have done, to give the Prime Minister the support she deserves so we can finally agree on how to leave the EU and move on to the better future that we all want and to give business the clarity and certainty that they need.