Iain Duncan Smith backs the Malthouse compromise as it provides an opportunity to keep the deal whilst finding an alternative to the backstop.

13th March 2019

Iain Duncan Smith backs the Malthouse compromise as it provides an opportunity to keep the deal whilst finding an alternative to the backstop or, in the event of not having the deal, managing the process of leaving with arrangements in place for a managed no-deal.

Clearly time is short, so I do not plan to take any interventions unless someone objects to anything important I have to say.

May I start by telling my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) how much I appreciate the time and service he gave? It is a great pity that he is no longer in post, for reasons he has made clear.

I say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade, who is sitting on the Front Bench, that I clearly cannot support the idea of taking no deal off the table, because I have always believed that ultimately that is not up to us, unless, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) has said, we are prepared somehow to revoke. If we are not prepared to revoke, we will put ourselves in the hands of the EU, which may decide that it does not want us to extend. Where would that leave us? It would leave us having to leave without the withdrawal agreement. The idea of no deal is a bit of a misnomer, because in actual fact a whole series of things are taking place right now in the EU and even here that amount to deals, arrangements and agreements. I will not go through the list, because time is very short.

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

I was not planning to give way, because others want to speak, but I will give way briefly to my hon. Friend.

During the course of the debate I have received a message from David Campbell Bannerman MEP, who says that the European Parliament in Strasbourg has today voted through no-deal measures on social security, road freight connectivity, basic air connectivity, the fishing fund, fishing vessels authorisation, railway safety and connectivity, and, on road haulage cabotage, the right for UK hauliers to operate within certain territory—and on it goes. Is it not the case that the Malthouse compromise—plan B—is emerging through the fact that both sides are taking sensible contingencies in their mutual interests?

I agree completely with my hon. Friend. That is my point on the concept of no deal versus managed exit. That is how I would refer to the process: we do it either by a completely upfront withdrawal agreement, or by a series of agreements. My point is that it is about managing the process of leaving.

That is why I put my name to amendment (f), which was tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green). I fully agree that it is not perfect but it seeks to find a way in which hon. Members with completely different views can come together, recognising that the people voted to leave and that our job is to deliver that. Is there a way to deliver it if there is not the chance of an agreement?

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Forgive me, but I will not give way. I am sure the hon. Lady will ask the same question. The answer is that I have not spoken to the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, but I take very serious consideration of that issue.

I do not believe that the Government’s deal is dead. What made it almost impossible for some of us to vote for was the Attorney General’s paragraph 19, which seemed to contradict the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments the night before. That is why the Malthouse compromise has gone forward. It covers both categories—making the deal, or being unable to make the deal—and that will allow us to reach an agreement.

The key is finding a way to replace the backstop as it exists now with alternative arrangements, which are listed in amendment (f)—I will not go through them now. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford is correct to say that we have essentially asked for four elements, behind which lie a great deal more detail that has been discussed in a series of meetings with my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench. We reached what I thought was a pretty good agreement. I credit the Prime Minister and others for having bound in those alternative arrangements. They were not bound in absolutely but they did make big progress in the deal she laid on the table, which will help enormously, because if we replace the backstop with the Malthouse alternatives, we get rid of the risk of the backstop being an imprisonment or an entrapment. It would become customs arrangements that allow all sides, including Dover and Calais, to trade successfully without too many problems. That is really the point.

I know that some of my colleagues are concerned—rightly—about extending for the sake of it. I am not in favour of that. In any case, I believe that will be rejected by the European Union because there needs to be a purpose. The point of the extension we propose is to meet the practicalities of getting the arrangements in place ready for the process of managed withdrawal without a withdrawal agreement. I would not vote for an extension with no purpose because all we will do is kick the can do the road, as the Prime Minister has said, ending up with exactly the same decisions to make only a few months later.

I recommend the Malthouse process because it allows us to manage the process of leaving carefully with practical solutions, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford laid out. It allows us a period of time in which to create that. I recommend it to my hon. and right hon. Friends and Opposition Members. If we come together and vote for amendment (f), we offer two things: the opportunity to get an arrangement that allows us to leave with a withdrawal agreement or, in the event of not having such an agreement, we can manage the process of leaving in a way that takes away the fear of having no deal.

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