Writing in the Sunday Express, Theresa Villiers explains why the Malthouse Compromise, the set of proposals agreed by leave and remain supporting MPs, could break the Brexit deadlock and enable the UK to leave with EU on 29th March with a deal approved by Parliament:
"Last week the Prime Minister won an important vote in the House of Commons and MPs sent a signal to Brussels about the kind of deal with the EU that could gain majority support.
In backing the amendment tabled by Sir Graham Brady, MPs voted for the replacement of the so-called “backstop”. We asked for the removal of the arrangement in the draft Withdrawal Agreement which would lock us into the EU customs union, tie us to many EU laws without having a say over them, and create a regulatory border within our country, dividing Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s assurance that she is now asking for the withdrawal agreement to be reopened because she seeking “significant and legally binding change to the withdrawal agreement”. Warm words will not be sufficient. Some kind of ‘joint interpretive instrument’ or ‘codicil’ will not be sufficient. We need major changes to the text of the draft withdrawal treaty if the terms of the amendment passed by Parliament are to be honoured.
Donald Tusk’s bizarre and offensive comments were unnecessary and unhelpful in securing that goal. But we should rise above such abuse and continue to put the positive case for a deal with the EU which respects the vote to leave, but also sets a path towards a positive future trading and security relationship. Whatever casual insults are thrown at us, it is in the interests of both the EU and the UK that an acceptable agreement is reached.
Moreover there are some signs of movement from the EU: Mario Centeno, the Portuguese Finance Minister and Head of Eurozone Finance Ministers, has already said that the EU needs to adjust its trajectory, open all dossiers and do everything possible to avoid a no deal exit.
With her negotiating hand reinforced by winning the vote, a remarkable turn-around after suffering the biggest defeat in Parliamentary history just two weeks previously, the Prime Minister should press on with fighting staunchly for British interests in Brussels.
It is vital that the Government takes seriously the compromise brokered by Kit Malthouse MP and put forward by MPs from both sides of the leave/remain divide. These are a pragmatic set of proposals which would see us leave on 29th March whilst also ensuring we have further time after exit day to plan for life outside the EU. They include workable arrangements to provide an invisible and free flowing Irish border using existing administrative flexibilities and existing technology. Compliance with customs and other formalities would be secured without new infrastructure at the border and any checks needed would be intelligence-led and take place away from the border.
Extending Article 50 would prolong uncertainty and drag out this political saga for even longer. Whichever way they voted in the referendum, there are many people saying ‘Please just get on with it!’. We should listen to that message."