Here’s how I would deliver Brexit as Prime Minister

Here’s how I would deliver Brexit as Prime Minister

We have reached a fork in the road. Collective political failure from the top of government has left the country – and my party – in a perilous position. We need to do more than rearrange the deck chairs, we need a new start and a fresh approach.

Whether it was agreeing to the sequencing of the talks, approval of the joint report which included the backstop, the failure at Salzburg or the sanctioning of talks with Jeremy Corbyn which led the Prime Minister to put a second referendum on the table – it’s clear that mistake after mistake has damaged the trust and credibility we need to unite the country, Parliament and party to deliver Brexit and build a better future.

My clear preference is to leave the EU with a deal. However, we do need to leave, so if I am faced with the choice of leaving without a deal or never leaving at all – I will choose to leave. We should take every step necessary to ensure that we are in a position to do so if the time comes.

The current extension to Article 50 runs to 31st October. I voted against this, but that is the position I would inherit as Prime Minister.

As a former Chief Whip, it is my judgement that it simply isn’t credible to suggest that you can renegotiate a deal with the EU and get it through both Houses of Parliament by 31st October. Candidates who suggest this is possible need to explain how.

The first stage of my plan to deliver Brexit involves doing something that the current Prime Minister failed to do.

As Prime Minister, working closely with the new Cabinet, I would lead a proper process to work through all the challenges and opportunities to arrive at an agreed negotiating position.

We also need to re-open the doors of Number 10 to our broad church of MPs to properly engage and listen to the views of our representatives from across the country. In September, the Conservative Parliamentary Party, having been heard and properly consulted, can unite around a new strategy.

A key ingredient of this first stage is the realisation that we can only get Brexit delivered, as I argued last October, with the votes of Conservatives, our DUP allies and a handful of backbench Labour MPs. We cannot trust the Labour front bench – their job is to oppose us, and Jeremy Corbyn wants to destroy us.

We must also face up to the reality that the current unamended ‘deal’ is dead. The only thing for which Parliament has signalled approval is the bulk of the present ‘deal’ minus the backstop.

We must go back to Brussels and open real and transparent discussions to change the backstop. After the Brady amendment’s approval in January and credible work on alternatives, I haven’t seen any evidence that the Prime Minister or Cabinet properly requested the EU to respect the views of Parliament.

The second part of my Brexit plan involves building strong relationships with the Republic of Ireland, both communities and all parties in Northern Ireland.

The EU will only move on the backstop with reassurance about both the integrity of the Belfast Agreement and the Single Market. We should take these concerns seriously and tackle them head on.

It is vital to rebuild a proper relationship with the Republic of Ireland. We work incredibly closely with Irish officials on everything from the operation of the Common Travel Area, to our efforts to crack down on smuggling at the present currency and VAT border and regularly share intelligence and security resources to ensure both countries are kept safe. This was something I saw first-hand when serving as Immigration Minister under David Cameron.

Our relationship with the Republic of Ireland should not only be with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, but also with the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil. As a General Election in Ireland becomes a less distant prospect, we need to avoid the backstop becoming a partisan electoral issue in the Republic.

When it comes to Northern Ireland, we need to make urgent progress in re-establishing the Executive at Stormont, assisted by a renewed effort from the Northern Ireland Office and the new Prime Minister. We owe it to everyone in Northern Ireland to restore a functioning devolved government.

The third element of my Brexit plan involves setting the right relationship with our EU partners – both the Commission and the Heads of Government of the Member States.

Our Prime Minister must have the diplomacy and communication skills needed – both on a bilateral and group basis – to get the tone of these relationships right. We need to show them what a positive post-Brexit relationship looks like – covering trade and the economy, security and defence – and clearly articulate how it’s best for both sides to get this right.

Then we can put forward a proper plan to change the backstop and protect the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.

This task will be difficult, but the best chance we have is with change – and that is something only I can offer.