With 10 days remaining until the UK leaves the EU if no withdrawal deal is agreed on by MPs, the issue is still hanging in the air after last night’s indicative votes.
As for the Borders region’s two MPs, it was more of the same.
John Lamont, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, once again voted against the four alternative options, holding to his support for Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal, which has already failed three times when put before MPs.
Mr Lamont had voted against that same withdrawal deal on the first occasion, saying it “threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom”. However, he had changed his mind and supported the deal on the next two votes.
The four options being voted on last night were as follows:
○ Ken Clarke’s customs union proposal, which would have committed the government to negotiating “a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU” as part of any Brexit deal, narrowly lost by 276 votes to 273.
○ Nick Boles’ Common Market 2.0 proposal, which would mean joining the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area, lost by 282 votes to 261, after which Mr Boles resigned as Tory whip.
○ Labour MPs Phil Wilson and Peter Kyle’s proposal, which said the public should have a vote to approve any Brexit deal passed by Parliament, gained the most support, but lost to 292 to 280 votes.
○ A proposal which aimed to prevent the UK leaving without a deal, including a vote on whether to revoke Article 50 if the EU does not agree to an extension, also failed by 292 votes to 191.
Mr Lamont said: “All of the alternative Brexit options would put the UK in a worse position than under the Prime Minister’s deal, which is why I voted against them.
“Clearly most MPs agree as yet again no alternative gained more support than the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement, even though Labour and the SNP were whipping their MPs to vote for them.
“The customs union and single market alternatives would not have delivered the referendum result and if implemented, would mean that a Latvian MEP had more of a say in UK trade policy and any politician in the UK. I did not think that was acceptable.
“I also oppose revoking article 50 and oppose holding another referendum. These options would fail to deliver on the promise to voters back in 2016 that the referendum would be respected and would mean more uncertainty for businesses.
“The withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU represents the only option to deliver on Brexit, to move on from endless debate and to provide certainty for businesses in the Borders.”
The man who lost his seat to Mr Lamont in the 2017 election, the SNP’s Calum Kerr, claimed Mr Lamont was not doing what was best for Borderers.
Writing on his Facebook page this morning, he said: “All through the 2017 election campaign I argued that the vote was to decide who would represent the Borders in the upcoming Brexit process, and it was critical that we had someone that would stand up for what is best for our region.
“In recent weeks, but in particular last night, this became crystal clear, as my successor failed to do what is best for the Borders, and put his party before the people he is supposed to be there to represent.
“The type of deal agreed is of critical importance for rural areas like ours. The harder the Brexit, the more damage it will do to our economy. The government’s own figures make this very clear.
“The opportunity is there to secure a softer Brexit, and to vote against it is a gross dereliction of duty, and he and his Scots Tory colleagues may feel no shame, but their betrayal deserves to be called out.”
While Mr Lamont is now fully behind Mrs May’s withdrawal deal, it’s believed it stands little chance of being voted through.
Meanwhile, all members of Theresa May’s cabinet, including Scottish Secretary David Mundell – MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale, abstained from all of the indicative votes.
We asked him why this was, but were directed to a comment from a UK government spokesperson, who said by way of explanation: “All cabinet ministers abstained on the indicative votes night (April 1), as they did last Wednesday (March 27).
“They have been clear they support the UK government’s deal, therefore did not vote for any of the alternatives.
“These votes have been primarily about giving parliament an opportunity to voice its opinion.”