Brussels remain sceptical about the Irish border proposal backed by a number of Tory Brexiters and remainers, despite the plan being aimed at securing a breakthrough in the Brexit impasse.
Senior Tory Brexit supporters including Jacob Rees Mogg and Steve Baker proposed the plan alongside leading remainers including Nicky Morgan and Stephen Hammond. It would involve:
- paying the £39bn EU divorce bill
- redrafting the backstop arrangements over the Irish border
- extending the transition/implementation period until December 2021.
NEW: Here is the new Nicky Morgan plan endorsed by Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker as well as Tory Remainers including Stephen Hammond and Robert Buckland. New backstop plus extension of transition period, or a no-deal ‘triple safety net’ pic.twitter.com/JZygHpV5aM
— Alex Wickham (@alexwickham) January 28, 2019
The extra time would be used to attempt to agree a free-trade deal with the EU. EU citizens’ rights would be guaranteed. In the extension period, there would be no customs checks on the Irish border.
EU officials have however dismissed the suggested compromise, which they say fails to offer Ireland any reassurance on the avoidance of a hard border with Northern Ireland. “What a cunning plan” said one official. “This is just nonsense,” echoed an EU diplomat, as reported by The Guardian.
Rees-Mogg said yesterday that he is in “no mood to support” Sir Graham Brady’s amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit deal which would replace the Irish backstop with “alternative arrangements”.
He then told journalists on Tuesday morning he would wait and see whether the government interpreted the amendment, tabled by the senior MP Graham Brady, as an instruction to try to reopen the withdrawal agreement.
“Let’s see what the prime minister says at the dispatch box today and what the Brady amendment really means,” he said.
The business minister Richard Harrington told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he and colleagues were demanding a promise from the prime minister that she would secure a plan B within a fortnight. “If she is prepared to give that irrevocable undertaking – which means at the dispatch box or a similar instrument – many of us feel ‘Well, OK for the sake of everything, we will give her two weeks’. But that is it”.
MPs are set for a long day of voting today. At around 1345, Speaker John Bercow will announce which amendments have been selected for debate. MPs will then debate until roughly 1900, at which point voting will take place on the amendments selected. The Prime Minister is then expected to make a statement on the results at around 20:00.