We now have a new Prime Minister in place and a new approach to Brexit. A deal was agreed with the European Union but Parliament has now failed to vote to support this deal on three occasions. It is clear that the current withdrawal agreement will not pass through the House of Commons despite the fact that 90% of Conservative MPs voted for the deal including the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Unfortunately in a hung parliament this is not enough to proceed. This leaves two options available assuming you wish to respect the result of the referendum; first to try to renegotiate a deal with the European Union which can gain wider support in parliament or if this is not possible leave, without a deal, on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms. In my view there is little point in delaying the date we leave the EU further as it is not more time we need but more compromise on all sides. I have said many times that I believe leaving the EU without any deal and trading on WTO terms would create unnecessary risk for thousands of businesses and millions of people across our country. This seems to be a very drastic action resulting from the fact that thirty MPs, from any party, did not support the deal which had taken three years to negotiate.
Currently the EU are stating they will not renegotiate any terms of a deal so we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. In my view the request for the EU to reconsider the permanence of the backstop is a reasonable request. Indeed, the parties already tried to address concerns raised about the backstop in March 2019 (LINK) where both sides tried to provide comfort that they did not wish the backstop to be applied at all and if it was it would be replaced with a permanent agreement including technology solutions on the Irish border when available. Unfortunately these side letters were not judged to have sufficient legal status (LINK) however, in my view it is reasonable to request that this “agreement in principle” be reopened and the parties consider how the backstop could be removed or replaced.
The Prime Minister has stated that it is his preferred position to leave the European Union in an orderly manner with a deal which is agreed through parliament. I support this position as it is by far the best approach to enable Brexit for both the UK and the EU27. There are of course some parties who wish to ignore the result of the referendum and remain in the EU, this is not a position I support. I believe we must respect the result of the vote however, this does not mean we should leave at any cost or inflict considerable economic damage to our country. We cannot leave the European Union without taking a risk, however, in my analysis and in my experience the risks contained within the withdrawal agreement were manageable and certainly less risky than leaving to trade on WTO terms. Reaching an agreement will require compromise from the EU, the UK Government and Members of Parliament and I hope as we near the deadline of 31st October 2019, positions will shift and an agreement can be reached.