Nicky Morgan MP: The Malthouse Compromise is the way through the Brexit impasse
The abiding mood in the country is ‘get on with it’ and patience on all sides is running out, says Nicky Morgan MP.
The period since 23rd June 2016 has not been a happy one for UK politics and MPs. After the high point of the then new Prime Minister’s ‘Burning Injustices’ speech on the steps of Downing Street, where she rightly identified domestic issues that need to be tackled, our system has instead been consumed by Brexit.
With 50 days’ to go until 29th March 2019, the UK and EU have a draft Withdrawal Agreement which cannot, unless changed, get the support of a majority of MPs, Brexit divisions remain widespread across the UK and businesses and individuals are crying out for certainty about what happens next.
The abiding mood in the country is ‘get on with it’ and patience on all sides is running out. And this is only the end of phase 1 of Brexit. The future relationship which will set the tone of UK policy towards the EU and therefore shape our wider global ambitions still has to be negotiated.
In the House of Commons it is a fact that the Government has to win not just one meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement but then a series of votes on subsequent legislation. It seems highly unlikely that opposition MPs will provide the Conservative Government with a stable majority in those votes. So, that majority has to be achieved by bringing together sufficient Conservative MPs together with MPs from our confidence and supply partners, the DUP and also some Labour MPs.
Until late January the House of Commons had never voted in favour of a Brexit outcome although we were getting good at ruling options out – such as a ‘no deal’ outcome to Brexit. The reality of the parliamentary maths is what encouraged me to engage with Conservative MPs with very different views from me on Brexit and what led us to agree the ‘Malthouse Compromise’. The Compromise then underpinned the Brady amendment which was approved by MPs, and showed how a majority could be assembled to support the Withdrawal Agreement.
Brokered by Kit Malthouse MP, the Compromise offers the EU a choice of two plans. Plan A is predicated on achieving agreement on a Withdrawal Agreement that addresses the principal weakness of the current version, the perpetual character of the Irish backstop, and its consequences for the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Plan B assumes that agreement on a Withdrawal Agreement is not possible and that both sides accept a responsibility to act so as to minimize as far as possible the disruption that might arise to people and businesses in the EU and the UK. Both Plan A and Plan B involve the UK ceasing to be a Member State of the EU on 29th March 2019. And both are without prejudice to the form of any future relationship.
Compromise is not easy on an issue as important and emotive as Brexit. It is an issue which really does go straight to our worldview and levels of trust on all sides are now so low and positons so entrenched that a resolution seems almost impossible. But while UK politics will never return to its pre-Brexit state there are many, many pressing issues which now need to be addressed and the best way to avoid a ‘no deal’ outcome to Brexit in 50 days’ time is to put an exit agreement in place.
Nicky Morgan is Conservative MP for Loughborough.