Boots Corner and Brexit

Although I was disappointed by the decision to continue with the Boots Corner trial, I was particularly surprised by the language used in the council chamber to attack my constituents who have perfectly legitimate concerns about the scheme. Robust disagreement is one thing, but calling nearly 6,000 people “deluded” because they take a different view is wrong and simply suggests the argument has been lost.

Meanwhile, Parliament is now approaching the endgame in the Brexit saga. In daily life, the world outside is continuing pretty much as normal. Unemployment is now at the lowest level in my lifetime, and just 2% in Cheltenham. Wages are rising and inflation is down, putting more money into people’s pockets. But this simply cannot be taken for granted. We need a deal.

One of the reasons for the Westminster logjam is that, as Oliver Letwin has said, is too many MPs are chasing unicorns - mythical solutions that are ideologically pure but practically undeliverable.

Some call for a withdrawal agreement with no backstop at all. But, rightly or wrongly, the EU will never agree to that because of concerns about a hard Irish border. That’s unicorn 1.

Others advocate being in the Single Market like Norway, but without accepting freedom of movement. Again, the EU has repeatedly said that if you are in the SM you have to accept open borders. Meet unicorn 2.

Others say everything can be solved with a second referendum. But there is no majority for such a course in Parliament, and one Labour frontbencher posted 14 reasons on Twitter this week why she would rather resign than pursue such a course. In any event, the result wouldn’t be accepted by the losing side and we’d be back to square one. Meet unicorn 3.

We need instead to focus on sensible solutions that recognise the parliamentary arithmetic and are deliverable. That’s why I drafted the so-called Murrison amendment, which imposes an automatic expiry date on the backstop to address concerns about permanent ‘vassalage’ and offer a credible way through. It is starting to gather support.