Is the Malthouse Compromise dead, what would that mean for the Tories?
By Joe Harker
Theresa May has returned to Brussels for yet another round of Brexit talks, leaving behind a Tory party that just had three MPs break away to join the independent group initially formed by seve former Labour MPs.
Saying that the party had been taken over by hardline Brexiteers, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen decided their future lay away from the Conservatives.
With splits in the major parties threatening to shake up British politics the Malthouse Compromise, the deal that brought the Tories together on Brexit, is all the more important if the prime minister wants to maintain a semblance of unity.
Unfortunately for May the Malthouse Compromise is described as dead, being unacceptable to the EU. It was the agreement that united the Tories behind the prime minister, but was never going to be met with any enthusiasm from the EU.
Channel 4 reports that many MPs who supported the Malthouse Compromise are worried it has been ditched, giving them nothing they can all get behind.
The EU has said time and again that they won't reopen negotiations on the backstop unless the UK agrees to a customs union and they are not convinced by the "alternative arrangements" the Malthouse Compromise proposes.
It was a deal that had the support of Theresa May's MPs but was not liked by the EU. In ignoring the other party in negotiations and proposing to replace the backstop with something vague and undefined the prime minister has only managed to set herself up for a fall.
The Counter Claim:
However, Steve Baker MP insisted the Malthouse Compromise was still "alive and kicking" after he met with May on February 19.
Baker is deputy chairman of the European Research Group, the faction of hardline Brexiteers who have been so obstructive towards the prime minister in recent months. The Malthouse Compromise was supposed to be a deal that they and Tory Remainers could get behind. So long as it exists the prime minister still has the backing of the ERG, without it she will have to bow to their demands or lose a significant chunk of support from within her own party.
He hopes the Malthouse Compromise is still going, it is the Brexit strategy the ERG has managed to get behind as they do not like the current withdrawal agreement the prime minister has secured. Without the Malthouse Compromise they will go back to being a headache for May.
The Malthouse Compromise sought to replace the backstop the prime minister agreed to back in November 2018. It proposed bringing in "alternative arrangements" instead of the backstop though what these alternative would have been is unknown.
The current backstop is designed as a fallback option if the UK fails to secure a future relationship with the EU. It ensures an open border in Ireland but many in the Tory party want a time limit or a unilateral exit clause before they agree to support it.
The EU has said this isn't going to happen and will not return to negotiations unless the UK signs up to a permanent customs union. The backstop is designed to be the last resort, a relationship to fall back on that doesn't lead to a hard border in Ireland. For the UK to leave it after a set amount of time or just decide to quit without a future relationship being agreed undermines the point of the backstop.