Analysis: Government must find a compromise on Brexit deal

11 September 2020, 11:12

Michel Barnier pictured at talks in London this week
Michel Barnier pictured at talks in London this week. Picture: PA
Theo Usherwood

By Theo Usherwood

The Government is heading down for another showdown in the House of Commons next week over its plan to ditch parts of the deal it struck with Brussels last year.

There is a growing caucus of Conservative backbenchers furious at Tuesday’s statement from Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis that the Government would break international law by bringing forward the Internal Markets Bill.

It will hand ministers in Westminster the final say on how goods are traded between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

Lord Michael Howard, the former Tory leader, and Lord Gavin Barwell, who was Theresa May’s chief of staff when she was PM, have already said the legislation will be voted down in the Lords.

Read more: PM stands firm over Brussels legal threat

But in truth, it may not even get that far unless Number 10 can find a compromise to placate the growing unease amongst MPs on its own benches.

Mrs May, Sir Bob Neill and Sir Roger Gale have all spoken out against the plan. So too, has Mel Stride, a former Treasury minister.

But speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC this morning, the man who is now chairman of the influential Treasury Select Committee, pointed towards a possible compromise in the form of a parliamentary lock.

He was scarce on the details but these mechanisms usually work by handing MPs the right to decide whether to invoke a particular power or a specific course of action.

The business minister Nadhim Zahawi described the measures in the Bill, handing powers to over-ride parts of the Withdrawal Agreement as an “insurance policy” this morning.

Going by what Mel Stride suggested, that could only happen if MPs also gave the all clear for the Government to break international law.

No word yet from Number 10 about whether the idea is acceptable but given that so far it has said it is pressing ahead, and that it appears to number of Tory dissenters is approaching the critical number of 40 needed to wipe out Boris Johnson’s working majority, a compromise is needed quickly.