Lamont defiant in support of EU deal

Borders MP John Lamont has defended his decision to vote for the UK-EU trade agreement which took place at Westminster yesterday.

Thursday, 31st December 2020, 11:45 am
John Lamont MP at Eyemouth.

The bill bringing the deal into UK law was overwhelmingly backed by MPs by 521 to 73 votes after Parliament was recalled.

While few Borderers will be surprised that he toed the Conservative Party line in the debate, the deal has been criticised by Scottish nationalists.

Mr Lamont has been taking the debate to Twitter in recent days, always adding the hashtag #nodealnicola in reference to the SNP not supporting the deal.

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Christine Grahame MSP says Scotland will never believe the Tories again.

He was not selected by the speaker of the House of Commons to participate in yesterday’s debate, but posted what he would have said on social media.

He wrote that he was supporting the deal, saying: “I believe everyone who wants the United Kingdom to flourish in the years ahead should do the same.

“Because this vote is not about the arguments of the past; it is about the opportunities of the future.”

On trade and jobs, he said: “Protecting the livelihoods of the people who send us here should be central to any economic debate.

“This agreement provides for the first zero-tariff, zero-quota free trade agreement in the EU’s history.

“That is a remarkable achievement for which our UK negotiating team should be congratulated.

“For the textile manufacturers and food producers in my Borders constituency, who export to the EU, that certainty is invaluable.

“Access to the EU market, alongside freedom to strike new trade deals around the world, will be a boon for businesses.

“Those who oppose this agreement must explain to their constituents why they would prefer the disruption and uncertainty of No Deal instead.

“And while they are at it, perhaps SNP members can explain why their party’s MEPs have consistently voted against the trade deals signed by the EU.”

Mr Lamont also brings up the issue of fishing.

Back in 2018, he tweeted that he would vote down any deal which did not give our fishermen “total control of fish stocks and vessel access”.

While the deal comes up short on that point – which has angered fishermen on both sides of the border – Mr Lamont insists the deal is a good one for the industry, and that banishing EU fishermen from our waters was not a “possible or even desirable outcome”.

He said: “This deal delivers for Scottish fishermen.

“It restores sovereignty over our coastal waters for the first time in 40 years.

“There will be an immediate transfer of quota to UK fishermen of 15%, increasing to 25% over a five-and-a-half-year adjustment period.

“For Scottish fishermen there is an added benefit – with grandfathering rights for EU vessels during the adjustment period limited to the waters around England and Wales.

“After that, we will hold annual quota negotiations with the EU, as do other independent coastal states.

“Risibly, the SNP are trying to score political points on fishing.

“They complain that the agreement does not immediately and overnight banish every EU fishing boat from British waters – as if that were a possible or even desirable outcome.

“Over decades, the CFP [Common Fisheries Policy] has decimated the British fishing fleet. It will take time and investment to rebuild it – and this agreement will deliver both.

“The SNP pose as good Europeans, but the implication of their argument is that the UK should give EU fishermen no time at all to re-orientate their livelihoods, even though we are not yet in a position to replace them. That would simply be an act of spite.

“In fact, the SNP’s policy remains to hand complete control back to Brussels by re-joining the Common Fisheries Policy at the earliest opportunity.”

On this issue, Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “What has been outlined so far is that full access will be granted to EU vessels for effectively six years from January.

“Over the same timescale the increase in quota shares for UK vessels will be 25 per cent.

“The Government has not yet provided the full text of the agreement or how this increase will apply to particular species, so it is very difficult to make a detailed assessment of the impact on our industry.

“However, the principles that the Government said it supported – control over access, quota shares based on zonal attachment, annual negotiations – do not appear to be central to the agreement.

“After all the promises given to the industry, that is hugely disappointing.”

Local SNP MSP Christine Grahame said the Tories have lost Scotland’s trust, claiming the Conservatives had lied on several Brexit-based issues.

She said: “Boris Johnson’s extreme Tory Brexit deal is a disaster for Scotland, which will cause long-term damage to jobs, businesses and the economy at the worst possible time as we try to manage the economic fallout of a pandemic.

“Scotland has been completely ignored by Westminster throughout the Brexit process.

“The claims that the Tories have made in the run up to this deal are demonstrably, undeniably untrue - they have absolutely misled people about what Brexit means. No-one in Scotland can ever trust a word the Tories say again.

“The UK government’s own analysis shows we will be much poorer and worse off as a result of Brexit – not better off as they claimed. We’ll have our EU benefits stripped away even though they said we’d keep them. Businesses will face added costs, red tape, bureaucracy and barriers to trade – hitting our economy hard.

“The Tories promised we would stay in Erasmus but they have taken us out. They said Scotland wouldn’t be at a competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland but we know that’s not true. They said there would be no checks at the border – but that’s nonsense.

“The Scottish Tories specifically are also breaking their word. Douglas Ross has ignored his own red lines on fishing and reneged on his commitment to oppose this deal.

“Alister Jack, David Duguid, and other Scottish Tory MPs have done the same. Baroness Ruth Davidson and David Mundell said they would resign rather than back a deal that created different arrangements for Northern Ireland – but she was given a peerage and they have stayed quiet.

“Scotland will not forget this massive Tory sell out – the Scottish Tories must be held to account at the election in May.

“Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. The SNP will reject this damaging Tory hard Brexit and stand up for Scotland’s place in Europe.

“It is clearer than ever, that the only way to protect Scotland’s interests, and regain the full benefits of EU membership, is to become an independent country.”