Today, we’re told, will be a historic day in the House of Commons. (Well yes, Virginia: there seems to be an awful lot of historic days there recently). The British MPs will vote on a number of amendments to Theresa May’s withdrawal bill that’d make it more acceptable to the MPs who rejected it emphatically a week or two back.
Prominent among these is an amendment by Sir Gerald Brady, which proposes removing the backstop in the withdrawal bill and replacing it with “alternative arrangements”. The May government has said it’ll support this amendment.
As far as I can establish, Brady may be an Irish name but the good knight has no immediate Irish connection in his bloodline. If he had, it would be fair to say that he’s engaging in leprechaun stuff: promising gold and inevitably leaving the gullible public with an iron pot.
Mind you, there is a possibility that those of us in the north are over-emphasising the importance of the backstop. From the beginning, the EU made it clear – in fact the joint declaration by the UK and the EU made it clear that the backstop would only come into play if nothing better could be found. And who’s to say that the good knight Gerald hasn’t come up with that something. But as Peter Sellers said in a memorable scene from Dr Strangelove: or how I stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb: “Vy didn’t you tell the vorld??” Why hasn’t Brady come out and told us what magical thing he has discovered that will do even better than the backstop and still maintain the invisible border in Ireland as it now stands?
Even if he does succeed in persuading the House of Commons to swing behind his amendment, I’d caution against applauding final unity at Westminster. It’d be nice to see the British House of Commons taking a break from looking and sounding like a bunch of clueless boneheads intent on ripping each other to pieces. But even in the light of sweetness and harmony at the end of play today, there’s one other little obstacle immediately ahead: the EU has been emphatic that it won’t re-open negotations on what has been agreed, and particularly the backstop.
The political weather today looks like being as miserable as the damp greyness outside my window.