'I may be a critic of the PM but he is working hard to get a deal through'
Column by Nick Boles, MP for Grantham and Stamford
This weekend the House of Commons will sit on Saturday (today). This is the first time that has happened in the nine and a half years that I have been an MP. It only happens at times of national crisis.
On Saturday it looks likely that MPs will be asked to vote on the compromise Brexit deal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has negotiated with the EU. At the time of writing, on Thursday morning, the Democratic Unionists from Northern Ireland are still withholding their support for the proposed deal but I think it is likely that eventually they will get on board.
I am a fierce critic of Boris Johnson. I could never belong to a party or a government that he led. But confronted with the removal of the possibility of a No Deal Brexit on 31st October by the Benn Act (of which I was one of the architects) Johnson has worked hard to secure a compromise that will enable him to deliver Brexit before Christmas. I am happy to acknowledge that with his back up against the wall he has proved a formidable negotiator.
I have already voted for a Brexit deal three times. I like Johnson’s deal less than Theresa May’s deal and both of them far less than my own proposal for a Common Market 2.0 through which the UK would remain a member of the Single Market and have the closest possible trading links with the EU.
But the Brexit process has been bedevilled by people holding out for their concept of perfection and I refuse to become one of them. So I will hold my nose and vote for Johnson’s Brexit deal as well.
If Johnson fails in his attempt to get his compromise deal through Parliament, I will then be forced to conclude that the only way to resolve this interminable crisis is to hold another referendum and ask the British people to decide between a soft Brexit deal like Common Market 2.0 or remaining in the EU on current terms. I hate the idea of a second referendum. It risks exacerbating divisions in our society and would constitute a profound failure of our political system. But the British people desperately need this question to be resolved so we can move on with the rest of our lives. If Johnson’s deal does not go through on Saturday, I will be voting for a referendum to break the deadlock starting next week.