The Prime Minister needs to understand that her Agreement cannot pass the Commons. All the Opposition parties oppose it. The DUP hate it. Around 100 Conservative MPs have stated in public they do not agree with it.
A substantial number of those MPs might change their vote on the Agreement if the Northern Ireland backstop were removed completely, or if there was an unambiguous and straightforward way for the UK to end it unilaterally once imposed. Whilst the vote on the Agreement would then be narrower, there would still be a substantial group of Conservative MPs who would oppose the Agreement for wider reasons often set out here. The Prime Minister ignores these other problems – the large sum of money committed for nothing, the indeterminate period left in the customs union, the vulnerability of our economy to new laws and regulations that could hurt us – all summed up as the opposite of the Leave we voted for. She assumes she could get practically every DUP and Conservative MP to change their minds.
She also assumed in the Confidence Vote meeting that the EU will offer some legally binding text which does scupper the Backstop. That looks extremely unlikely, given the stance of the EU so far. If we assume they are not bluffing when they say they will not re open the Withdrawal Agreement text it is difficult to see any reassurance or political declaration about the Backstop persuading the DUP and other critics, as what matters is the law as written rather than statements of how a future EU might behave. One of the problems with that is the imminent European Parliament elections and a new Commission, so what is the value of any promises by the current set up?
I have the following questions for the PM
What legal text have you tabled to remove the Backstop? Will you share it with us as we might agree with it?
What indications if any are there that the EU will moderate its stance and resume talks about legal change to the Backstop part of the Agreement?
If there is no new text and no prospect of talks to change this draft law, how do you envisage getting the DUP back on board to support the government?
If the DUP remain largely detached, how can the government proceed with its wider programme of work?
What action if any are you taking to deal with the other large problems with the Agreement as around 400 MPs see it?
If there are no good answers to these questions, then the PM should come to the Commons and announce that unf0rtunately the Agreement cannot be fixed so she is withdrawing it. She should then return to the EU and discuss the best way to proceed to exit, with accelerated work on the various agreements it would be nice to have to make it easier for both sides. She should finally get round to tabling a Canada style free trade agreement and set out again how the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border can be handled much as now. This present currency, Excise, VAT and anti terrorist border could also be a customs and regulatory border, with most of the checks done well away from the border and the information shared electronically in advance of the border crossing. Managed exit without a Withdrawal Agreement is what most Leave voters want, given the penal and one sided nature of the Withdrawal Agreement.