In light of this week’s Brexit votes I am writing to update you on what has taken place and how I see things.
I think the stars are beginning - just - to align. On Wednesday Parliament voted to take No Deal off the table. I’ve made it clear throughout in numerous emails, tweets, and articles on my website, that while I recognised the value of keeping No Deal on the table for negotiations, there would come a time when that leverage was over - and it has. No-one pretends that the EU has anything more to give after the important legally binding changes on the backstop last Monday.
And yesterday Parliament took the Second Referendum off the table (important that others at the other end of the spectrum saw this wasn’t possible).
So the options remaining have narrowed considerably:
- On one hand there is the known certainty of the amended Withdrawal Agreement which has already been agreed with the EU, and if passed, would enable us to leave the EU soon after 29th March.
- The alternatives are all more complicated because they all have specific asks, such as EEA membership or permanent Customs Union membership, which many citizens would not be in favour of.
In any case it is important to remember that without a Withdrawal Agreement we cannot to proceed to the next stage of negotiations, ie trade.
The real question is whether the Attorney General can reassure the DUP and some of my Conservative colleagues that this solution would represent the least worst option.
In my view the legally binding changes agreed with the EU are important but there may be added reassurance needed from the UK government to the DUP and I expect that is what they will be working on over the weekend.
I remain convinced that it is vital that we get behind the government and ensure that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is passed and that is what I shall be working for next week.