Do you remember all the bogus fuss about Prorogation? Labour were determined to ‘keep us all in Westminster to hold the Government to account.’ They even, mean-mindedly, cancelled the Recess to allow us to attend the Tory Party Conference in Manchester. Well I did my duty. I cleared the diary. I travelled up to London, and sat around the Commons for three days, during which absolutely NOTHING happened. No votes; no Government business (it was all wrapped up ages ago), no PMQs (Boris was in Manchester and Diane Abbott couldn’t count up to six, the number of questions she is allocated.) The noisiest things about Parliament during this period of great national crisis were the snores from the Commons library and the tumbleweed drifting down the corridors of power.
And then on Thursday a horseman appeared on the horizon. It was Clint Boris Eastwood with an offer which the EU would be foolish to ignore. None of us love it. There is a great deal that is wrong with it, but the most obnoxious elements of the NI Backstop have been solved. The DUP are prepared to accept it; the European Reform Group are looking at the small print, but all of the indications are that we will (perhaps reluctantly) go along with it; the 21 Tory colleagues who lost the Whip will support it; there are even rumours that up to about 20 Labour colleagues from Brexit seats will support it. In other words, for the first time since the Brady Amendment, there is a very good chance that this Deal, dislike some details of it as some of us do, may well get through the Commons with a reasonable majority.
All we need now is for the EU - who want a deal as much as we do- and the Irish to agree to it (or at least to enter into serious negotiations over it) and we will indeed be leaving the EU with a Deal on 31 October as promised. The fuss over Prorogation would be forgotten; the Benn Act forcing an extension to Article 50 would be redundant; the fake worries about ‘No Deal crashing out, cliff edges’ and all of that would be consigned to the rhetorical dustbin of Brexit history. Leavers and Remainers alike up and down the land would breathe a sigh of relief. We’ve had enough of it all. All we want now is to get Brexit done.
The next few days of negotiation will be crucial and very delicate. But I call on the European negotiators to realise that this is a good compromise offer; that it’s as far as we can go; that we need it done within a very short space of time. We Tories have a healthy lead in the polls, which means that if they mess around we will have an inexorable General Election, and a Tory majority in all probability, in which case they would then have to accept our proposals. So from the EU’s standpoint this is about as good as it’s ever going to get, and if they truly have the interests of their people at heart they will now agree it, and the Brexit saga will be ended.
It’s too early to be triumphant; but for the first time in a very long time I feel genuinely optimistic that a Deal can be done, and we can deliver what 17.4 million people voted for. Then, and only then, will Parliament arouse itself properly and get on with discussing health and education, defence and foreign affairs. And then and only then can Britain – a free and independent nation state- truly start to make our own way in the wider world. We are so close now. Let’s make it happen.