26 February 2019
Reject Cooper-Letwin tomorrow – and focus on a good deal which can secure a Commons majority

Joint article with Suella Braverman MP

Tomorrow, Parliament will vote on the wrecking amendment that is Cooper-Letwin. Make no mistake, the sole intention of its creators is to block Brexit. They must not succeed. It would leave a poisonous constitutional legacy and will break the solemn commitments made in the 2017 Conservative manifesto.

At this moment of heightened tension, it a crucial time to focus on what actually unites our Government, our party and our country.

The Brexit prize is in sight. We may all have been so worn down we’ve lost focus on what we believe and what we can achieve.

There has been a lot of jargon on backstops, on Malthouse Compromises and meaningful votes. But what do we actually all want?

We want to deliver what record numbers of Britons voted for, namely taking back control over our borders, laws and money. We want to keep our manifesto commitments that Brexit will be delivered on time and that the UK will leave the customs union and single market. We want to protect the integrity of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Above all, we all want an orderly exit from the European Union.

So how does that all come about? We are reassured that this week the Prime Minister reiterated her desire to honour our 2017 manifesto commitments on Brexit. We are further reassured that she says she wants to secure legally binding changes to the backstop to ensure that the will of Parliament prevails and that we can secure a unilateral exit mechanism from the backstop or a final date for our exit from it.

So the important thing to focus on now is to secure those ends from the negotiations and bring a better deal back to Parliament. If the Prime Minister achieves this, she can be assured of the support of her party in Parliament. The successful passing of the Brady amendment showed that the will is there in Parliament and a majority can be achieved. This is in our national interest, and provides the benefit of uniting our party after a difficult few days where we have unfortunately lost three of our colleagues.

In delivering our manifesto commitments and honouring the public mandate, we feel that the Prime Minister is owed loyalty and support. Our sense is that the Party – whether voters, members or MPs – wants to come together to get Brexit over the line and take the fight to Corbyn’s Labour Party. We all want Brexit over and done with now, but the deal has to be the right one for our country. As Martin Howe QC, the distinguished constitutional lawyer, wrote recently, the “acid test” must be “whether it gives the UK a clear and unconditional legal right to break out of the backstop if the negotiations fail.”

Frankly, labels are unhelpful at the present time. If the right deal is secured it really does not matter what group people belong to or how their views are labelled. Secure the best Brexit and we will all rally to the cause.

Then we can move on to discussing the real prize of Brexit: our future trading relationships with the EU and the rest of the world. There is no reason at all why we cannot secure the optimum deal with the EU of a Canada-style Free Trade Arrangement. We can also simultaneously negotiate similar FTAs with countries across the globe, delivering the global Britain the British people voted for.

The Conservative Party is united in searching for the best solution to take us out of the EU on the 29th March 2019. The backstop has to go in its present form, we must not be in the customs union thereby enabling us to agree far reaching global trade deals, and thus honouring our commitment to the referendum vote on the 23rd June 2016. We can all support the Prime Minister in this endeavour.

We very much hope that we will be able to support the Prime Minister in her effort to unify the party around a deal it can support. We are sure she will take account of the clearly expressed wishes of the House of Commons and deliver the Brexit the British people voted for. That would offer the optimistic future the British people deserve and deliver the feel-good factor of honouring promises and fulfilling people’s hopes. Let’s be positive and seize the moment to negotiate the deal we all want.

First published on ConservativeHome website