Here below is a statement to constituents about how I intend to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday 15th December:
Last month, I made it clear that I was unable to support the Withdrawal Agreement. In the intervening time, the Prime Minister has sought further clarification from the European Union, particularly around the so-called Northern Ireland backstop arrangement which will kick in if a future trade agreement is not reached in time.
Regrettably, nothing I have heard from the EU since December has reassured me.
I intend to vote against the deal this evening because I believe the Withdrawal Agreement could harm the integrity of the United Kingdom and help the nationalists in Scotland with their plan to break up Britain.
From the large volume of correspondence that I have received from constituents, it is clear that this deal still fails to satisfy many people.
Voting against my Government and against my party is not a decision I take lightly. It should not be seen as a vote against the Prime Minister, who I think has done a near impossible task and done it well. She has been let down by the EU which has not been forthcoming or reasonable despite knowing this deal is unacceptable to the UK Parliament.
I do not think that anyone else would have been able to negotiate a better agreement and the Prime Minister continues to have my full support. If the Labour party ever get around to tabling a no-confidence motion, then I will not hesitate to support the Government.
However, I need to put my constituents and my country first. I do not believe that this deal delivers for either.
I set out my concerns around the agreement last month and little has changed. In short, I want to avoid the UK being stuck in an uncomfortable half way house, where we have to follow EU rules but have no say. The open-ended backstop arrangement to deal with the Northern Ireland border could mean that we are tied to the EU indefinitely, which would not respect the vote in 2016. And as worryingly, it would also harm the integrity of our United Kingdom. Putting up trade barriers within the UK will only help Nicola Sturgeon and her obsession to break up Britain.
Despite the reassurances from the EU, there is no doubt that this deal comes with significant risks. I agree with others in the Scottish Conservative Party who have said that any Brexit deal should not introduce different arrangements for Northern Ireland because of the impact it could have on the integrity of the United Kingdom.
This deal looks almost certain to be rejected today. So what should happen next?
I am strongly against holding another referendum. Everyone was promised ahead of the EU referendum that their choice would be implemented and that is what should happen. Holding another vote just because politicians don’t like the outcome would be hugely damaging to democracy in this country and I do not believe it would produce a clear result anyway.
Nor do I want a so called ‘No-Deal’ Brexit. While I believe that some of the warnings about this scenario have been overexaggerated, ‘No-Deal’ would clearly risk disruption to our economy and it should be avoided. The UK Government is absolutely right to be making preparations for this eventuality, because if no agreement is reached, that is what will happen.
My preference would be for the UK to leave the EU with a deal which delivers the referendum result to leave but which provides stability for people and for businesses. I believe that the majority of MPs want this too. Rejecting this deal will, I hope, create a path to achieving a better one which delivers for the country.
I can live with much of what is contained in this Withdrawal Agreement and if the Northern Ireland backstop was removed, I’d support it. After speaking with my colleagues over recent weeks, many others would too. This would give the UK and the EU two years to negotiate a trade deal which both sides say they want, but would get rid of the backstop, which both sides say they do not want. Crucially, it would give businesses a two-year transition period to adapt to this new relationship while respecting the result of the referendum in 2016.
Most people I speak to are fed up with talk about Brexit and the bickering they see between MPs on the TV. This compromise solution would mean a workable deal, which could command the support of Parliament and mean we can all move on.
The Government will outline their next steps in the coming days. I will be urging the Prime Minister to go back to the EU, say the only way a deal can be reached is if the Northern Ireland backstop is removed and bring that back to Parliament.