Today the Prosperity UK Alternative Arrangements Commission, which I co-chair with Nicky Morgan, has set out its road map to a Brexit deal, by finding a way to supersede the maligned Irish Backstop, while simultaneously ensuring there is no hard border in Ireland and the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement is upheld.
Critically, our Final Report includes two new draft Alternative Arrangements Protocols, produced with the help of the international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. The new Prime Minister, the EU and the Irish Government will now have both the technical material and the legal basis for coming to a Brexit agreement as soon as possible.
The first Protocol, Protocol AB, could be used within the existing Withdrawal Agreement. It incorporates a list of obligations that the UK must satisfy in order to ensure the Backstop would not be triggered. The second, Protocol C, is a stand-alone Protocol that delivers Alternative Arrangements in any other Brexit scenario, such as a Free Trade Agreement or even a No Deal.
There should be confidence that a Brexit deal is now achievable. Adopting Alternative Arrangements to the Backstop, as construed by the Brady Amendment, have already achieved a majority in the House of Commons. The Prosperity UK Commission has taken that vote, and with the help of a team of 23 technical experts, we have turned it into something tangible and workable.
On the EU side, it has already conceded that both sides should seek to find Alternative Arrangements to the Backstop via the Strasbourg Declaration. But it said it would only commence the work after the Withdrawal Agreement came into force.
These Alternative Arrangements can be up and running within three years, with the ability to implement some measures far sooner. They consist of harnessing existing technologies and customs best practice, currently used on borders around the world; they do not rely on futuristic high-tech solutions.
Furthermore, they have been compiled within the boundaries of certain constraints, namely, the supremacy of the Belfast / Good Friday agreement, the preservation of the Common Travel Area, the need for a deliverable and real UK independent trade and regulatory policy, the need to ensure the seamless flow of East-West trade flows and the need to ensure that all proposals can be up and running within two to three years.
Our Alternative Arrangements Commission advocates the maximum possible choice of options for people and traders, respecting the Common Travel Area Agreement. It suggests a multi-tier trusted trader programme for large and medium-sized companies, with exemptions for the smallest companies; no checks at the border and a common Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) zone for the UK and the island of Ireland, but with the right for the UK to diverge and a mechanism to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland can make the choice as to whether to follow the UK divergence or remain aligned to SPS rules in Ireland. In the event this cannot be achieved, SPS checks can be carried out by mobile units away from the border.
As regards implementation, the Commission recommends the creation of two new funds, paid for by the UK, to assist with the implementation of Alternative Arrangements on both sides of the Irish border for small businesses, as well as a capacity building fund to support customs development. It suggests the creation of an independent arbitration panel and a specialist committee to advise on implementation.
The work of the Commission, conducted in good faith, following the failure of government to start this work much earlier, has been entirely focused on delivering solutions that are politically independent and sympathetic and which can ultimately deliver Brexit. This report has not only been based on the work of technical experts, but on feedback from numerous stakeholders on the island of Ireland and in the EU. It should therefore be considered very carefully by all parliamentarians in the House of Commons as well as by the Irish Government and by the EU to ensure that they use this piece of detailed and technical work to present a way forward.
So far, the two contenders for the leadership of the Conservative Party have endorsed our Alternative Arrangements Interim Report. I am now confident that our plan to develop the Alternative Arrangements outlined in our Final Report today can pass in the House of Commons. It is imperative that MPs from across the House come together to read this report and to find a way to implement Brexit so we can all move on to delivering the better country the voters want.