And there we have it folks, the worst kept secret in the north west, Tatton MP Esther McVey is going to stand for the Conservative leadership when Theresa May steps down. Although given Mrs May’s ability to cling on like a limpet, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I was Ms McVey.

The former Work and Pensions Secretary quit the cabinet in November in protest at Mrs May’s Brexit deal and has become the third Tory openly to declare her ambition to be Prime Minister, after Andrea Leadsom and Rory Stewart.

Asked whether she will stand in the battle to replace Mrs May, Ms McVey told TalkRadio: “I have always said quite clearly if I got enough support from my colleagues, yes I would.

“Now people have come forward and I have got that support, so I will be going forward.”

I questioned recently whether Ms McVey could be considered a ‘One Nation’ Tory but in truth, that was something of a rhetorical question because I think we have all the evidence we would ever need that she isn’t.

She has certainly placed herself on the ‘hard Brexit’ side of the debate and said the Conservative Party needed a leader who ‘believes in Brexit’, and had ‘belief in the opportunities’ it could bring.

According to the Guardian, Ms McVey’s Cabinet resignation letter in November 2018 said: “It will be no good trying to pretend to [voters] that this [Mrs May’s] deal honours the result of the referendum when it is obvious to everyone that it doesn’t.

“We have gone from ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ to ‘any deal is better than no deal’. I cannot defend this, and I cannot vote for this deal. I could not look my constituents in the eye were I to do that.”

(I understand, however, that Esther McVey voted to pass the withdrawal agreement but that’s politics I suppose.) If we go back to February of this year, Ms McVey made her position very clear when she appeared on the LBC radio station.

She underlined that the default position will be for the UK to leave the EU without a deal if a deal is not agreed on, and wants to educate people on what it means to leave on WTO terms.

When she was asked if she had an alternative to May’s deal, she replied: “The plan has always been to leave, as we always said, without a deal if we cannot agree on a deal, and that is why it was so important that we did all the planning and preparations around it.”

Now I don’t aspire to high office but I do have an issue with this stance that neither Ms McVey nor any of her other hard Brexit fellow travellers have addressed to my satisfaction.

At the heart of the problem is the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, and is the legally binding international treaty that effectively ended ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.

It established a devolved power-sharing administration and created new institutions for cross-border cooperation and structures for improved relations between the British and Irish governments.

It was approved by referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in 1998 and was incorporated into British and Irish constitutional law and other areas of legislation.

Let’s just repeat that shall we? It put an end to the death and destruction of The Troubles; it’s a legally binding international treaty and its rules and regulations are part of our constitution.

So if we ‘just leave’ on WTO terms or any other arrangement or deal that doesn’t include a customs union, single market and free movement of people, the inevitable consequence will be a so-called hard border with checkpoints, border posts and all the other infrastructure that goes with it. We, as a country, will have reneged on an international treaty and in effect will have turned ourselves into a rogue state.

And as it stands at the moment, there is no technology that can replace border checks infrastructure, nor is any likely in the foreseeable future. To suggest otherwise is just political gaslighting.

Don’t believe me? How about believing Northern Ireland’s most senior police officer?

According to the BBC, Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable, George Hamilton, has repeatedly said that a hard border would be damaging for the wider peace process and any new border infrastructure would be seen as ‘fair game’ for attack by dissident republicans.

He said: “If you put up significant physical infrastructure at a border, which is the subject of contention politically, you are re-emphasising the context and the causes of the conflict.”

So please, Ms McVey, don’t talk to me about WTO until you can provide a realistic, workable solution to the Irish border problem, otherwise this is all just populist nonsense.  By Guardian columnist The Fly in the Ointment