As a remain voter, I was of course taken aback by the outcome of the referendum. However, I felt then that it was right to respect that outcome, however narrow the margin, and I still do.
I know some feel strongly that another referendum, or a ‘people’s vote’, is the answer and I entirely understand this view, but I am yet to be convinced that this would be in the national interest. We have already had a people’s vote and it has led us to where we are. Another vote, assuming it indicated a different outcome, would create total uncertainty as to the direction we are taking and, as the country is almost equally divided, would presumably be followed by another vote, and another, and so on. If a further vote indicated the same outcome, it would have achieved nothing but at a considerable cost financially and diplomatically – we would still be in the same situation, and such a circular journey would reflect badly on our long-established democracy.
I am similarly yet to be convinced by the argument that Members of Parliament should vote down the Prime Minister’s settlement, painstakingly negotiated over the last two years, so that we can go back to the drawing board and achieve a ‘fantasy Brexit’ in the few months remaining before we leave. I do not believe that doing so would have any likelihood of achieving a better deal and may in fact land us with a worse one. Moreover, any new deal would not only have to be voted on by this Parliament but also by the twenty-seven other Member States, who are hardly likely to agree to any better deal than the one we have currently agreed in principle.
Various groups, including the Confederation of British Industry, the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce, the National Farmers' Union Scotland and the Scottish Whisky Association have made clear that they have reservations on the final deal but are minded to support it. In tandem with my Scottish Conservative colleagues, I have written to seek clarification from the Prime Minister on a number of points, relating primarily to the Northern Ireland backstop and UK fishing rights. Assuming this clarification is positive, I too would be minded to support the deal.
We are not where I would have liked us to be, but I do believe the Prime Minister has worked incredibly hard to put together the best deal achievable in these unprecedented circumstances. Whilst I do have reservations, this deal is infinitely better than no deal. I have given the situation a great deal of thought over many months, and, to be clear on my position, I am minded to support the deal. However, if I do not receive assurances on the Northern Ireland backstop and fishing rights this may change.
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