The authors are respectively the Conservative MPs for Witham, Berwick-upon-Tweed, and Lewes.
The future shape of the UK’s exit from the EU is still to be determined.
After the Prime Minister’s deal was rejected by 230 votes, Conservative MPs from all wings of the party united around the Brady Amendment.
We came together with a clear proposal to take forward to secure our exit from the EU, on time and in line with our commitments in the Conservative Manifesto.
This will allow us to regain our independence, yet enjoy a positive relationship with the EU. It will bring an end to Brexit uncertainty and enable us to focus on building the global Britain that will not only be an economic powerhouse, but an example to the world of what we can achieve.
And it was a message to the European Union that a clear majority in the UK Parliament could back the Withdrawal Agreement as long as the backstop is “replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border”. The Brady Amendment was also supported by the Government’s DUP partners.
The Northern Ireland backstop has to be removed from a new draft agreement. Of great concern was the threat the backstop posed to the integrity of the Union via its provisions that Northern Ireland be subject to the jurisdiction of the EU whilst Great Britain would not. So too was the fact that the draft Agreement provided no unilateral exit mechanism whatsoever for the UK, and thus bound us indefinitely to the EU.
Nothing changes the fact that, as the Prime Minister herself has said, we need to see meaningful, legally-binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, removing the backstop.
We remain open-minded as to how this is achieved, but it must be a treaty-level clause that brings about substantive legal changes. It cannot simply re-emphasise the temporary nature of the backstop, because the Attorney General has already said that it could “endure indefinitely”.
Under such circumstances it is hard not to recall the Prime Minister’s 2017 General Election mantra that no deal was better than a bad deal. If it was true then it is true now. If the EU is not prepared to listen to the wishes of the British people and its elected representatives, we have to be prepared to depart of World Trade Organisation terms. Indeed, there are some advantages to doing so.
So those who claim this country would not be able to succeed by departing on World Trade Terms have a responsibility to bring back a better deal which can command the support of the House – by dealing with the backstop.
We have provided a basis on which the Government can negotiate. It proves that the Conservative Party can unite around a set of proposals to deliver the Brexit that record numbers of Britons voted for in 2016.
They voted to take back control over borders, laws, and money. In its 2017 general election manifesto the Conservative Party solemnly promised to honour that vote, and that the UK would leave both the single market and the customs union. To break those pledges now would likely risk dangerous electoral consequences for the party, and defy the wishes of the vast majority of Conservative MPs, members, and voters.
A much happier approach would be to unify the Party around a deal it can support. To take account of the clearly expressed wishes of the House of Commons and deliver the Brexit the British people voted for.
That would offer an optimistic future and deliver the long term opportunities the British. Let’s be positive and seize the moment to negotiate the deal we all want to achieve.