MPs must vote for Theresa May’s deal but Brexit is slipping away because hardliners are ‘chasing fantasy’ deal

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MPs must vote for Theresa May's deal but Brexit is slipping away because hardliners are 'chasing fantasy' deal



WAKE up, MPs! Smell the coffee. Get with the programme.
Brexit is slipping away.
The Brexiteers are scuppering the opportunity to leave the EU with a good deal
It risks being killed off entirely by the very MPs who claim to love it the most — Conservative backbench Eurosceptics still chasing ­fantasy Brexits.
Since last week, the options have changed.
First, Parliament voted to rule out No Deal. Then MPs backed a Brexit delay.
It’s as if the House of Commons is ­following Tony Blair’s step-by-step guide to overturning the 2016 referendum.
A No Deal Brexit will only happen in nine days’ time if the EU refuses an ­extension. That is unlikely.
Theresa May will beg for a delay, whatever the conditions.
EU members will not want to be blamed for a messy No Deal outcome.
From next week, MPs could start voting on their preferred Brexit options through so-called indicative votes. Spoiler alert — they will not end up backing a harder exit.
I know there are Leave voters who do not like Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
But if you do not like her deal, look at the alternative options for softer Brexits, which would be far worse for the country.
If you think this deal risks the UK ­getting stuck in a customs union, just wait till you see what the deal would look like with Labour’s “permanent” customs union glued on top.
AFP or licensors Theresa May’s deal is the best option we’ve got and it’s not that bad
Better to have an imperfect route to controlling our own trade policy than no route at all.
If you do not like the fact that, under the PM’s deal, we would have to keep existing EU goods and agricultural rules, imagine staying in the Single Market or, as it is rebranded, Common Market 2.0. We would lose the veto over goods rules which we have in the backstop, and be forced to follow rules on services too.
Even in a worst-case scenario, Theresa May’s deal lets us escape the EU’s “ever closer union” political project and seize control of our own immigration policy.
We would be in control of almost all our economy and not have to pay a penny for it on an ongoing basis.
It is far better than most critics will admit. Thanks to changes secured at Strasbourg last week, we have new protections.
The EU can no longer do what French President Macron arrogantly threatened. It will not be able to use the backstop as a “trap” to demand access to UK fishing waters.
The EU cannot just say “non” to every sensible idea for resolving the Irish border issues. The so-called Star Chamber of MPs were quick to reject the Strasbourg changes.
But they should listen to the Irish opposition party.
Their Brexit spokesperson said: “We have come a long way” from a “bullet-proof, rock-solid, cast-iron backstop”.
Or how about top barrister Lord ­Pannick? He is the QC who won the case for Gina Miller against the Government.
AFP or licensors Dominic Raab is one of the hardline Brexiteers who could condemn our exit from the EU
He argues that in some circumstances the UK could terminate the deal through the so-called Vienna Convention.
Conservative Eurosceptic big beasts, from ex-leader Michael Howard to former Chancellor Norman Lamont, have all weighed in behind the deal.
David Davis, who resigned over ­Chequers, is now onside.
Lord Trimble, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for the Good Friday Agreement, has backed it. If he can live with the backstop, that should count for something.
But some Eurosceptic back- benchers still refuse to support the PM’s deal.
Led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, they would prefer a harder deal. But face facts. There is no harder Brexit on offer.
With No Deal out of reach, there is no incentive for the EU to provide any more concessions.
That means the choices are this deal or a softer Brexit. Or no Brexit at all.
And be sure that the Speaker, John Bercow, will bend every possible rule to frustrate Brexit.
So, do not expect a long delay to offer a better answer.
Getty Images – Getty Boris Johnson should lead the charge in compromise and save the whole Brexit project
Anyway, the choice on our future could be made soon.
There is no time to lose to save Brexit. Even a snap General Election offers no easy salvation. It would mean Theresa May leading the Tories into another campaign on a manifesto of her deal — precisely what her critics want to avoid. And of course, the Conservatives could lose any path to power at all, kissing goodbye to any Brexit.
Brexit would never have happened if it had not been for Boris Johnson.
Now he has a crucial opportunity to save the whole project.
He can show how he can be a ­statesman, by compromising in the national interest.
And he can demonstrate the sort of leadership that won him so much praise as Mayor of London.
If the Government can persuade the DUP to vote for the deal, backbenchers including Dominic Raab, Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa Villiers and Mark Harper should follow suit.
Otherwise, they risk being remembered as the MPs who wrecked Brexit, along with Labour MPs who helped trigger ­Article 50 and then opposed both No Deal and the current deal.
Theresa May also needs to recognise that backbenchers want someone else to take forward the next stage of the negotiations.
If she tries to cling to power, critics on both sides of the Brexit divide may never back her deal.
Whereas if she pledges to step down on getting her deal through, she can step down as a hero who delivered Brexit against the odds.
Getty Images – Getty If Brexit doesn’t happen then it could make room for Corbyn who can’t control anti-Semitism in his party
MPs should know that politics is about taking the world as you find it, not as you would like it to be.
And leadership is about taking decisions, even when all the choices are unpalatable.
It is fine to stick to principle, but not if that means emulating King Canute’s stand against the waves.
If Brexit does not happen it will be a ­national democratic calamity.
As the party in power, the Conservatives will be punished.
That means risking ­letting Jeremy Corbyn — a leader who can not even deal with anti-Semitism in his own party — seize control of the country.
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The stakes simply could not be higher. If this chance is squandered we will likely never get another moment.
Right across Europe, critics of Brussels will think “even Britain couldn’t break free”.For the sake of the country and for the future of the oldest and most successful political party in history, Tory MPs must, indeed, all hang together. Or most assuredly they shall all hang separately.
Henry Newman is director of the Open Europe think tank.
Michel Barnier says the UK should come up with a Brexit plan

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