MPs need reassurance over ending the Irish backstop says powerful Tory MP in Brexit debate

Powerful Tory backbencher Sir Graham Brady hinted he and other MPs may need “reassurance” over ending the Northern Irish backstop before they can back Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

The chair of the 1922 Committee had earlier praised the PM’s efforts in getting the Withdrawal Agreement drafted.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow announces the result of a vote in which MPs approved a motion which finds ministers in contempt of Parliament and orders the immediate publication of the "final and full" legal advice on the Brexit deal. Photo: PA Wire

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow announces the result of a vote in which MPs approved a motion which finds ministers in contempt of Parliament and orders the immediate publication of the "final and full" legal advice on the Brexit deal. Photo: PA Wire

“I think the Prime Minister has enormous goodwill on both sides of the House.

“I think members on both sides know she has worked phenomenally hard to try to secure the best agreement,” he said.

“I think she’s also correct when she makes the point that the country feels ready to move on, there is palpable tiredness with this subject and people the length and breadth if the United Kingdom want to know that we’re going to move forward.”

But speaking in Tuesday’s Commons debate Sir Graham said “there has to be a way to leave” the backstop mechanism without the EU’s approval.

Prime Minister Theresa May leaving 10 Downing Street, London for the the House of Commons ahead of a five-day debate on her draft Brexit bill. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May leaving 10 Downing Street, London for the the House of Commons ahead of a five-day debate on her draft Brexit bill. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

He said: “Over the next seven days can I urge the Brexit Secretary and the Prime Minister in the strongest possible terms to redouble their efforts to find a way to give real reassurance that we the United Kingdom in future could leave the Northern Irish backstop in the event that we have had to join it.”

The member for Altrincham and Sale West added he was not alone among Conservative MPs in holding that opinion, adding: “Many of us are hoping to hear that reassurance, and are willing the Brexit Secretary and the Prime Minister well in the process.”

Mr Brady’s comments came as Theresa May has made a last-ditch attempt to rally MPs behind her Brexit deal after suffering the historic humiliation of seeing her government found in contempt of Parliament.

In dramatic scenes at Westminster, the government bowed to pressure to publish the “final and full” legal advice to Cabinet on the deal after MPs voted by 311 to 293 that its failure to do so amounted to contempt.

The prime minister’s DUP allies — along with Tory MPs Philip Hollobone and Peter Bone — joined opposition parties in the unprecedented move.

It is the first time in modern history that any government has been found in contempt and means the highly sensitive advice provided by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will be published, in contravention of long-standing practice.

Ministers are expected to set out today how this will be done.

The vote came shortly before Mrs May kicked off a five-day debate ahead of the December 11 “meaningful vote” with a speech lasting more than an hour in which she told MPs she had delivered “the very best deal for the British people” and backed it “with my whole heart”.

Before the prime minister appeared at the despatch box, her government had gone down to defeat for the third time in an hour.

MPs backed a move that could put Parliament in the driving seat if the Brexit deal is rejected on December 11 by giving the Commons the power to amend a motion that Mrs May would be required to make within the following 21 days to set out the government’s next steps.

Some 26 Tory MPs — including former ministers Sir Michael Fallon, Damian Green and Sir Oliver Letwin — rebelled on the amendment tabled by ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve.

This could open the door for the Commons to throw its weight behind a Norway-style soft Brexit or even a second EU referendum, though prominent Leave-backing MPs questioned whether any such vote would be binding on ministers.

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the finding of contempt was “a badge of shame” for the government, with “huge constitutional and political significance”.

“By treating Parliament with contempt, the government has proved it has lost its majority and the respect of the House,” Sir Keir said.

“The prime minister can’t keep pushing Parliament away or avoiding responsible scrutiny.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable repeated calls for a second EU referendum, saying: “Theresa May’s majority has evaporated and the credibility of her deal is evaporating with it.”

Asked if Mrs May still felt she could command a majority in the Commons for the crunch vote next Tuesday, a Downing Street source said: “Everybody knows the parliamentary arithmetic.

“The fact is, during the course of this administration we have won the overwhelming majority of votes that have taken place on the floor of the House of Commons.”

Opening debate on the deal she struck in Brussels last month, Mrs May warned: “Don’t imagine that if we vote this down another deal is going to miraculously appear.

“The alternative is uncertainty and risk - the risk Brexit could be stopped, the risk we could crash out with no deal.”

She said it would not be in the “national interest” to block the Withdrawal Agreement, adding: “The only certainty would be uncertainty.”

MPs’ decisions over the next week would “set the course our country takes for decades to come”, she said.

Mrs May told them: “I promise you today this is the very best deal for the British people, I ask you to back it in the best interests of our constituents and our country.

“And with my whole heart I commend this motion to the House.”

In a speech repeatedly interrupted by MPs attacking her deal, the prime minister pledged to give Parliament and the devolved administrations a “greater and more formal role” in forthcoming negotiations with the EU over trade — but declined to say whether MPs would get a vote on that deal.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May’s deal would “make this country worse off”.

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