SIR Graham Brady, the MP for Altrincham and Sale West and Chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, threw a lifeline to the Prime Minister last Tuesday.

An amendment he put to Parliament was passed by a majority of 16 votes.

It requested that the House agreed to replace the Irish border back stop “with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border.”

In an exclusive interview, Sir Graham explained what these alternative arrangements might be.

He said: “Any arrangement that avoids the possibility of being permanently locked in the wrong agreement would be acceptable.”

He suggested this could be the right to give notice, the conditions that the back stop would need if negotiations broke down, or a much more rapid agreement to guarantee free trade between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

In his Parliamentary speech, Sir Graham explained the reason why he had tabled the amendment, having initially voted against the deal.

He said: “There was in that withdrawal agreement one compromise too far. It isn’t, and I think it is important to say, the whole concept of the back stop.

"The compromise too far is the possibility that that back stop arrangement which is explicitly intended never to be anything more than a temporary arrangement could, in the terms it has been brought forward, actually become a permanent arrangement.

“And, by doing so, could lock in a situation where Northern Ireland is treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom perpetually and where the whole of the United Kingdom is locked into the Customs Union in perpetuity as well.”

He told the Messenger: “I was delighted to win because in this Parliament a majority of 16 seemed high.”

He recalled the activity before the amendment was put.

“I thought that I and a number of other people had worked quite hard to ensure that we had the support that we needed.

“Crucially, on the Monday afternoon, getting the Government’s support and then talking to a lot of colleagues all the way through Tuesday, I became cautiously optimistic.

“The vote included members of four political parties ­— most Conservative MPs, the Democratic Unionist Party, one Liberal Democrat and eight Labour Members.

“The EU has repeatedly said that it cannot negotiate with us because it doesn’t know what we can get the House of Commons to agree.

“My amendment answers that question and strengthened the Prime Minister’s hand considerably.

“It expresses the preference for leaving the EU in an orderly manner with an agreement in place.”