One of the most dramatic examples of how Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement had lost the support of her backbenches came when Graham Brady—the elected chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs—walked into the no lobby. Brady has now put down an amendment ahead of Tuesday’s vote which makes clear in what circumstances he would back the agreement. It says the House would support the withdrawal agreement if the government and the EU ‘replace the backstop with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border’. The amendment is backed by the officers of the 1922 Committee—three of whom voted for May’s deal last week, and three of whom opposed it; the chairman of the Northern Ireland select committee Andrew Murrison—who has his own amendment down–and Theresa May’s former First Secretary of State Damian Green.
The amendment is more subtle than a simple call to rip out the backstop. It recognises that a way will need to be found to avoid a hard border. But it is still a very big negotiating ask at this stage in proceedings. It is very hard to imagine Leo Varadkar going along with it.
One would expect this amendment to attract further Tory support when it appears on the order paper on Monday. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, and Owen Paterson, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, proposed a very similar approach last November.