Borders MP John Lamont has said he will “not be rushed or forced” into reaching a position on the draft withdrawal agreement for Brexit, five days after the Conservative Government was thrown into turmoil due to cabinet resignations, backbench Brexiteer threats and the possibility of a leadership challenge against Prime Minister Theresa May.
On Wednesday, November 14, the draft EU withdrawal agreement was published by the UK Government and the European Union.
The 585-page document outlines how much money will be paid to the EU, the terms of a proposed 21-month transition period after Brexit day in March and commitments on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU.
The contents of the document has been incredibly divisive, with several Conservative MPs – both Brexiteers and Remainers – saying they would not back the agreement. Even if some rebel Labour MPs were to support it, it’s highly likely the agreement would be rejected in a Commons vote, which could lead to a “no-deal” Brexit.
While several Conservative MPs were more than happy to state their intentions last week, Mr Lamont has yet to decide whether to support the agreement or not.
Criticising the “knee-jerk” reaction of others, the MP says he will not be forced into making a decision and will instead look and consult in detail about how this agreement will affect residents and businesses in the Borders.
He said: “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. Nicola Sturgeon told her MPs to vote against it before the deal was even published in what was a clearly cynical move.”
“The House of Commons is expected to vote on whether to support the EU withdrawal agreement in December. The outcome of rejecting the deal is that the UK would, almost certainly, leave the EU without a deal.
“That is the reality of the situation. Deciding whether or not to support this deal will be one of the biggest decisions MPs will ever make.”
“I will not be rushed or forced into reaching a position. I will not be bounced into making a decision for short-term party political reasons. As I have said all along, my priority is to ensure that we get a Brexit deal that works for the Scottish Borders, for Scotland and for the whole of the United Kingdom.
“Given the lasting impact that this agreement will have on our country, it is important that we get it right.”
Mr Lamont said the Prime Minister bringing any deal to the table was a “huge achievement”, but admitted he had “a number of initial concerns” with some aspects of the agreement.
He said: “My initial reaction is that having a deal on the table to scrutinise is in itself a huge achievement, which brings long called-for clarity for businesses and for EU citizens. It is a credit to the Prime Minister that she has achieved this despite so much resistance from the EU.
“However, I do have a number of initial concerns, in particular surrounding the provisions on rights to fish in UK territorial waters and around the Northern Ireland backstop arrangement.
“As a unionist, I will find it very hard to support anything which attacks the integrity of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Lamont said in March this year that he would reject any final Brexit deal if it did not hand the UK full control of setting fishing quotas and determining which vessels are allowed in British waters.
Mr Lamont urged his constituents to fill in his online survey so he can best establish what Borderers are thinking regarding Brexit.
He added: “Over the coming days, I will be looking closely at how this agreement will affect businesses and residents in the Borders before coming to a view about whether I can support it.
“I have already received many emails, but would encourage constituents to get in touch or complete my survey. I will also be speaking to ministerial colleagues to obtain further clarity on many of these issues.”