Tuesday 12th March – An Improved Deal
The improvements to the deal with the EU gained by the PM yesterday give grounds for hope that we will be able to leave, as planned, on March 29th. There are now good grounds for the DUP, and many former opponents in my own party, to get behind the deal.
The PM was never going to be able to replace the backstop, or get rid of it completely. But she has been able to achieve significant improvements , against all the odds. Here is a summary of the changes agreed yesterday:
1. The political commitments given by the EU that the Irish backstop is not intended to be permanent are now set in law.
2. Legal force, equivalent to the Withdrawal Agreement, will now underpin the right of the UK to suspend its obligations under the backstop if the EU breaches its obligations to negotiate a free-trade deal in good faith.
3. The Political Declaration that sets the framework for the future trade negotiations is to be amended to require the EU to work to establish an alternative to the backstop by the end of the transition period.
These changes should enable enough colleagues who opposed the deal because of the backstop arrangements to get behind it now without feeling compromised. There will of course be those for whom nothing will ever be enough; who will hold out for their own version of how best to leave. I hope very much that they will be in a minority when it comes to the vote tonight.
I will be voting for the PM’s deal along with others who want to honour the result of the referendum without seriously damaging our economy and people’s job prospects.