This time last week, I was hoping against hope that the Attorney General would bring back some concession on the Irish Backstop, which would be sufficient for me to support the PM’s badly flawed Deal. And to begin with I was quite encouraged. ”She cannot have made that last minute dash to Strasbourg for meetings with M Barnier unless she really had achieved some kind of a breakthrough,” I reasoned. “Her Deal was so thoroughly beaten last time round on account of the obnoxious Back-stop arrangements. She must have got them removed, or at least a firm end-date inserted.”
So, to begin with on Tuesday I was rather inclined to support her Deal. Better than No Deal, perhaps, and certainly better than No Brexit, which might otherwise be the consequence. I went along to the Attorney General’s Statement. He would be an enthusiastic supporter of the negotiation, presumably, which would enable me to firm up my support. Sadly not. His support for the deal was wishy-washy to say the least. Afterwards it was strongly rumoured that he had told the PM that he could not support it at all and was offered the revolver and bottle of whisky treatment as a result. The Deal was as bad as it had always been, with no redeeming Cox’s Codpiece to make it any better. So my decision was clear- I voted against it for the second time. The majority was smaller, but still overwhelming. Had it been closer; had I felt that my vote would have really mattered, then perhaps I would have been persuaded. But the DUP and most of my ERG colleagues, decided to vote against the Deal, so there was really no purpose in my compromising my Brexit principles. Or at least, not yet.
For the astonishing events of Wednesday and Thursday very probably mean that we will now either have to accept Mrs May’s Deal, atrocious as it is in many ways, or conclude that we really cannot leave the EU after all, and remain diminished and humiliated slaves of the Brussels hegemony for all time. On Wednesday, the PM’s motion proposed that we should not leave on 29 March with No Deal. Dame Caroline Spellman moved an amendment that that should become a permanent No to ‘No Deal’. Then she tried to change her mind and pull her amendment, which a Labour MP nonetheless moved on her behalf, which was then won by 4 votes. So now having been a three line whip to support the PM’s motion, it became a three line whip to vote against it. Yet in an unprecedented breach of collective responsibility, a gang of Ministers including Devizes MP, Claire Perry, rebelled against a three line whip, abstained, and by that means allowed the amended motion to be carried. Sarah Newton was the only honourable minister to resign. The rest should be ashamed of themselves. The end result of their culpable disloyalty is that Brexit is suddenly starting to look increasingly unlikely.
Now this is a very fast-moving scene, and the outlook changes daily if not hourly. However whatever now happens, I am finding it increasingly hard to conclude anything other than that the only way we can achieve anything which even vaguely resembles the Brexit that 17.4 million people voted for is indeed the PM’s deeply flawed and in parts wholly obnoxious deal. It breaks my heart to say it, but my strong instinct is that our efforts to produce a Clean Brexit, a full Brexit, even a No Deal Brexit have now failed. There comes a time in any war when the losing side has to recognise defeat and seek to extract the best possible terms for their troops. The End Game, as it is known in chess.
I think we are now there. So my expectation is that when the same old deal is brought back before us next week, I for one, and I hope enough of my ERG colleagues to make it pass, will march through the Ayes lobby in support of the Deal, with our heads held high having fought a good fight. Its not what we wanted, but it now looks like the best we can actually get. To my strong Brexit electorate I would say: “I am sorry. You know that I tried my best.” To my Remainer electorate: “I hope that you will at least be pleased at a much softer Brexit than people like me might have liked”, and to my pragmatic reasonable middle grounders: “I think you will understand my dilemma and my eventual decision.” And to you all, please understand the heavy burden of responsibility which all MPs feel resting on their shoulders. These decisions will affect life in Britain for generations to come. They are mot made lightly nor easily.