I may have forecast the isolation of the DUP too quickly. First Boris – sidling backwards into it supporting Mrs May’s deal. And now Jacob Rees Mogg has had his Damascus moment and appears to have placed the fate of Theresa May’s deal in the DUP’s hands. But is there less to this than meets the eye? If anything the DUP’s position has hardened. It has dawned on them that the likely final settlement will take on the shape of the backstop . And their best hope of mitigating it is by kicking the can down the road as far as the road will go. Meanwhile the scales have dropped from St Mogg’s eyes.
I apologise for changing my mind. Theresa May’s deal is a bad one, it does not deliver on the promises made in the Tory Party manifesto and its negotiation was a failure of statesmanship. A £39 billion bill for nothing, a minimum of 21 months of vassalage, the continued involvement of the European Court and, worst of all, a backstop with no end date.
Yet, I am now willing to support it if the Democratic Unionist Party does, and by doing so will be accused of infirmity of purpose by some and treachery by others. I have come to this view because the numbers in Parliament make it clear that all the other potential outcomes are worse and an awkward reality needs to be faced.
Mrs May ought to have concluded a better agreement but behind the backs of two secretaries of state, David Davis and Dominic Raab, she did not.
The agreement on the table is as it is, and the proposal to replace the backstop with something else, particularly the Malthouse Compromise (a managed No Deal exit — if a deal cannot be agreed) has floundered.
Rees Mogg even sees a way of disposing of the backstop ( He seem to forget that the EU could impose punitive tariffs for a breach in the withdrawal agreement). Why has he only spotted it now?
The backstop, too, could tie us into rules that we did not like. But outside the EU, it would be a political not a legal matter. International law is not as clear-cut as EU or domestic law and there is no court to rule between states and international bodies.
Ultimately, Brexit could be delivered upon but it would take longer. It would need a Commons that wants to use our freedoms and that is willing to insist that the word ‘temporary’, as applied to the backstop, is genuine. It needs political leadership and a desire to stop the weak-minded managing of decline and a belief in the UK.
“Willing to support Theresa May ’s deal if the DUP does” And what is the DUP saying? Sammy for one is not for turning, as he writes in the Daily Telegraph. He confirms the Sky News’ report that the DUP would even prefer a long extension of Article 50 to the withdrawal agreement.
The Withdrawal Agreement itself means no Brexit. It ensures that the EU has the legal power to prevent us ever leaving except on their draconian terms, which would include a Customs Union and adherence to EU regulations. Those who negotiated the agreement have been quite open about that. They insist that the terms of the deal will be the basis for any future relationship with the EU. They also make it clear that different treatment for Northern Ireland will have to continue. As Leo Varadker has said, the agreement’s terms settle the arrangements required to keep the Northern Ireland border open.
We will never volunteer to Northern Ireland being torn from the rest of the UK or our economy being damaged by having trade restrictions between Northern Ireland and our main market in Great Britain. We have worked assiduously with the Government to try to get changes to the agreement and will continue to do so, but we will not vote for an unamended or unchanged version.
There are some colleagues who I admire greatly and who have stood firmly with us in defending Northern Ireland who now take the view that the Withdrawal Agreement, even though it is a rotten deal, is better than losing Brexit. To them I say that, if the deal goes through, we have lost our right to leave the EU. If we sign up to it, we give away our right to leave to the whim and dictates of the EU. That is not Brexit.
Even if we are forced into a one-year extension, we at least would have a say on the things which affect us during that time and would have the right to unilaterally decide to leave at the end of that one-year period through the simple decision of not applying for a further extension. Surely this is a better strategy than volunteering to be locked into the prison of the withdrawal deal with the cell door key in the pocket of Michel Barnier? Besides, the fact remains that Brexit can only be lost if the Government decides to abandon pursuing negotiations to leave the EU.
Finally the announcement of the details of the no-deal Brexit arrangements by the Irish Republic at the weekend, when they confirmed that they can deal with Irish Border trade without any need for one stick of infrastructure along the border, is the final proof that the exit deal is based on one big con job. The Irish border was never an issue. It was used to secure a leaving arrangement which would dictate the restrictive terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
Does Sammy speak for all 10? We’ve been told before that he doesn’t but they have always voted unanimously. The whisperers are saying they might abstain this time. But if the look on Nigel Dodds’ face when he scolded the prime minister yesterday stays fixed, abstention aint gonna happen. But MV3 will only be put to the vote if she’s confident that the majority can be reached. The DUP are still not helping.
Wednesday morning update from Paul Waugh of Huffpost
The real roadblock to a Commons majority for May’s deal remains the DUP. Yesterday, its Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson sparked some panic in government when he suggested a long delay of even a year would be preferable to the ‘prison’ of the PM’s plan. Within minutes, the DUP was stressing that wasn’t the official position. Indeed some cynics believe that if hardliner Sammy is lashing out it’s because he fears his party is drifting towards the Boris-IDS-Moggy route of surrender. For now, the DUP really is standing firm, however. Its 10 MPs never, ever split on matters of the Union.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London