The DUP has given its backing to a new proposal aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock by uniting Tory Remainers and Brexiteers.
It has been reported that prominent Tories on both sides of the Brexit divide have hammered out a secret compromise designed to bridge the gap between the warring factions within the Conservative Party.
The so-called ‘Malthouse’ alternative, negotiated by ERG leaders Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker and Tory Remainers including Nicky Morgan Stephen Hammond, has also been endorsed by Theresa May’s allies in government, the DUP.
In a statement this morning, DUP leader Arlene Foster said she believes the plan can unify a number of strands in the Brexit debate and urged the Prime Minister to get behind it.
She added: “It also gives a feasible alternative to the backstop proposed by the European Union which would split the United Kingdom or keep the entire United Kingdom in the Customs Union and Single Market. Importantly, this proposal would also offer a route towards negotiating a future trade relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
“If the Prime Minister is seeking to find a united front, both between elements in her own party and the DUP, in the negotiations which she will enter with the European Union, then this is a proposition which she should not turn her back on.
“There is no better time to advance this alternative given the confusion and disarray which is now manifesting itself in Brussels. This has been displayed both by the contradictory EU statements and the panic stricken behaviour of the Irish government.”
The ‘Malthouse’ alternative, or the ‘Malthouse’ compromise, was named in honour of housing minister Kit Malthouse who helped broker the proposal.
It sets out an alternative to the much-maligned backstop arrangement, which has proven to be the major impediment to progress in the Brexit talks between London and Brussels.
As reported by The Telegraph today, the joint Remainer-Brexiteer plan has two stages. Firstly, Mrs May would go back to Brussels and try to renegotiate the backstop element of her withdrawal agreement.
It would also involve extending the transition period for an extra year, to allow more time to agree a future trading relationship.
Should the attempt to renegotiate the backstop fail, the second stage would see the PM ask the EU to honour the agreed transition period. In return, the UK would honour its agreed financial contributions and its commitments on EU citizens’ rights.
This would give both sides time to prepare for a departure on WTO terms at the end of 2021 — or to strike a new trading relationship.
The proposals have been broadly welcomed on the Tory MPs’ WhatsApp group, The Telegraph reports.