I am going to make some progress; I have given way a number of times.
The Prime Minister signed off the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration in November. She was originally supposed to hold the meaningful vote on
“What I am talking about is not a further exchange of letters but a significant and legally binding change to the withdrawal agreement. Negotiating such a change will not be easy. It will involve reopening the withdrawal agreement”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 653, c. 678.]
At this late stage in negotiations, any withdrawal agreement would have required the backstop. It was always totally unrealistic for the Prime Minister to pretend that she could drop the backstop entirely or make substantive changes to the withdrawal agreement, yet she wasted weeks and weeks on this fruitless pursuit, including voting for the amendment in the name of Sir Graham Brady, which required the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced by “alternative arrangements”. Those arrangements have not been secured and they could never have been secured.
Too often this Government have ignored motions of this House. It took Parliament to fight for a meaningful vote on the two documents, the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, to be considered together. To suggest that they should be considered separately now is to go back on what the Government have been saying about the importance of the link between them for months and months.