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Purists will never back a deal. Pragmatists should unite around Common Market 2.0

3 min read

While the Prime Minister is on a wild goose chase, MPs are working together cross-party to find a compromise that can unite parliament and the country, writes Lucy Powell

Last week we saw more Parliamentary debates, motions, amendments and votes. But are we any closer to actually delivering Brexit?

We know that the House of Commons does not want No Deal. We know that the House of Commons wants a deal. We know that the House of Commons wants to deliver Brexit.

Instead of delivering a compromise Brexit deal that the House can support, the Prime Minister is currently on a wild goose chase, under the pretence of renegotiating that which has previously been ruled out as impossible by both herself and the EU.

If the EU do indeed reject, as expected, the Prime Minister’s new hope of renegotiating the Irish backstop we will find ourselves in exactly the same place as we are now but two weeks closer to crashing out without a deal. Something will have to give.

Despite appearances, a deal could be within reach. In amongst the theatre, between votes, in Parliamentary corridors and away from the headlines, a glimmer of light, free from partisan point scoring, is starting to emerge.

If you blinked, you may have missed it. At the despatch box, Jeremy Corbyn spoke positively of the merits of compromise and of finding a solution to the Brexit impasse. He praised Rob Halfon, Nick Boles, Stephen Kinnock and myself for attempting to broker a cross-party compromise that could end the Brexit impasse. It is in this new spirit of compromise that we must all now work.

Establishing a new relationship with the EU, through Common Market 2.0, would give us a chance to recast our relationship but as part of a genuine economic community, free from the closer political integration and honouring the referendum result.

Common Market 2.0 – a combination of EEA and EFTA membership – is as close to being an ‘off-the-shelf’ deal as it is possible to be. It is built upon a model which both already exists and is a tested means by which to retain a close and beneficial relationship with the EU.

Common Market 2.0 has all the makings of being the first, genuine attempt to reach across political dividing lines to reach a Brexit solution that can be palatable to everyone. It is not party political, and it is not the first choice of either party leader. But it can work.

It can solve the intractable problem of the backstop. It can command a majority in Parliament. It can bring together leavers and remainers. It can bring the country together.

We have to be honest with ourselves. The reason there has been no Parliamentary agreement to date is because the Prime Minister has spent two years walking an impossible tightrope within her own party. For the sake of the country, and for the sake of delivering Brexit, it is time for the Prime Minister to reach out to all sides – Labour and Conservatives, who want a Brexit deal.  

Of course, colleagues across the House have legitimate concerns about Common Market 2.0 – it isn’t perfect. But the only way to address these are to have open, constructive and frank discussions. The wreckers and purists, on both side of the House, will never back a deal. It is time we worked around them and worked together to deliver a workable solution. That means being upfront about the compromises that we must make.

Lucy Powell is Labour MP for Manchester Central

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