How I will vote on Brexit deal

When I was elected as Member of Parliament for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, I made a promise to people in the Borders that I would put them first, ahead of party politics.

I have wrestled with this decision for many days and weeks and it is undoubtedly the hardest of my political career. While some politicians had a knee-jerk reaction to this deal - I have been carefully considering the Agreement in detail before coming to a view as to whether it delivers for my constituents and our nation.

I have never doubted the Prime Minister’s commitment to deliver the best for this country. I don't think that any other leader could have negotiated a better deal. Even among those who do not support this deal, the vast majority of people recognise she has put her heart and soul into public service over the past few years. And she has had an almost impossible job to do.

Reluctantly, I have come to the view that I cannot support the Withdrawal Agreement that has been negotiated with the EU, as it currently stands.

I wanted to let you, my constituents, know first.

Over the past few weeks I have received upwards of 1,000 emails, social media comments, survey responses and phone calls from constituents. While there is little consensus about what should happen next, the clear message that I have received from my constituents was that this agreement does not satisfy many.

I have reluctantly come to this decision for a number of reasons, all of which I have outlined before. I do not doubt the Prime Minister’s commitment to protect our fishing communities and that the Northern Ireland backstop would only be temporary, if invoked at all. Today’s announcements to guarantee annual negotiations and better quota shares are certainly welcome, but for me, these commitments are not enough. The personalities currently involved in the negotiation, those in the European Parliament, the Commission and on the UK side, will come and go, and political priorities will change. It’s therefore really important that the words in the legally binding agreement deliver for Scotland and for the UK without having to rely on good will or a hope for the best attitude.  

I want the UK to move on and be able to focus on other, more important things. This Withdrawal Agreement could mean that we are still talking about Brexit for many more years to come. 

In coming to my decision, I have had to weigh up the risks associated with the agreement and the risk of the unknown.

Members of Parliament are being asked to support a deal without any clear ideas of what the alternatives are.

There are clearly significant risks associated with this Withdrawal Agreement, including the potential that fishing could be traded away and the possibility that we will be locked in to the backstop arrangement.

This deal could mean that we retain some of the worst things about EU membership without being able to take advantage of the opportunities of Brexit. The UK could end up in an uncomfortable half-way house - having to follow EU rules without any influence or say over them. I have come to the conclusion that on balance, these are not risks I am prepared to take.

If this deal is rejected, as is looking likely, the Prime Minister needs to go back to the EU and seek to get the Northern Ireland backstop dropped or substantial amendments which address the concerns of MPs.

I remain opposed to another referendum on Brexit and think it is vital to respect the result of the vote in 2016.

I know that this decision will not satisfy everyone in the Scottish Borders. However, I am doing what I think is in the best interests of my constituents and of the country.

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