Lamont comes off Brexit fence before vote delay

John Lamont said he was going to vote against the Brexit deal moments before it was revealed that Theresa May was about to delay the House of Commons vote.
John Lamont said he was going to vote against the Brexit deal moments before it was revealed that Theresa May was about to delay the House of Commons vote.

Borders MP John Lamont decided on Monday he would vote against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement.

However, mere minutes after he made his decision public, Government insiders leaked that the House of Commons vote was to be delayed.

And on Tuesday, Conservative MP Mr Lamont – who claimed he had been torn for weeks between his loyalty for Mrs May and his “deep misgivings” over the agreement – went on to say that the vote delay was “far from ideal”.

He said: “The Prime Minister is going back to European leaders now that it has become clear that the current withdrawal agreement does not have the support of the UK parliament.

“Before the delay was announced, I made it clear that there would have to be significant changes, particularly around the backstop [for Northern Ireland], in order for me to be able to support this deal.

“Time will tell whether the Prime Minister is able to secure any meaningful changes.

“It is, however, far from ideal that this vote is being delayed.

“Businesses in the Scottish Borders need a decision to be made fast about what shape Brexit will take and any further delay will only increase uncertainty.

“In order for MPs to support a Brexit deal, it needs to deliver for the whole of the United Kingdom.

“This single objective needs to be the focus of Government efforts over the coming days and weeks.”

Mr Lamont said he had “never doubted the Prime Minister’s commitment to deliver the best for this country,” adding: “I don’t think that any other leader could have negotiated a better deal.”

However, he still has his misgivings over it.

He said: “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 halfway 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.”

He added: “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.”

Mrs May had previously said that the withdrawal agreement, which was ratified by the 27 EU states, was the only deal on the table.

However, her inability to sell it to her own politicians, never mind the rest of parliament, has seen her forced to head back to Europe to try to get a better deal.

The likelihood of her achieving this task is fairly slim, with European Council president Donald Tusk saying the remaining 27 EU countries would not “renegotiate” the deal.

And it will certainly prove difficult to change the deal to the extent that it would gain the support of enough members in parliament.