This article originally appeared in The Herald Newspaper on 5th December 2018.
Next week, MPs will debate and vote on the draft withdrawal agreement with the European Union. I think for all of us it will be the most important vote of our political lives so far. The agreement sets out the terms on which we will leave the European Union, delivering on the referendum result. If we succeed in getting it through, we can then begin our negotiations on our future relationship with the EU – in other words, our future free trade deal.
Those of you who have been following the news will know of the wide variety of views put forward. Some people want to vote the deal down because they think it makes the UK a vassal state. Some want to vote it down in the belief that we can go an negotiate something better. Some want to vote it down because they think it means it will stop Brexit. Some want to vote it down because they think it will lead to a second referendum, when people will vote to stay in the EU. Some people want to vote it down because they believe that no deal would be better than a bad deal.
I will support the deal if it comes to Parliament. I do not think the deal turns the UK into a vassal state. On the contrary, it preserves our economy and trade while ensuring we leave the European Union. It will give us the space and time we need to negotiate a proper free trade relationship with Europe. There is much misunderstanding about the so-called backstop, which ensures that we have an open border between Ireland and the UK. It is true we can bring it to an end only by mutual agreement. But the EU is keen to end it, and bring about a new trade deal, as under the Agreement we get access to their market with out paying into the EU, and without freedom of movement. The EU wont want that situation to last for long so we have a great opportunity to move forward.
I also want to make clear that I do not support a second referendum. If a deal cannot get through Parliament, it may be the only option available to break the impasse, but even that is doubtful. A second referendum will simply divide the country further, with a considerable chance of resulting in another vote in favour of Brexit.
Although I voted Remain, I think we have to leave the European Union as a result of the referendum outcome. It is up to the government, and Parliament, to deliver a deal that ensures we leave, while preserving jobs, businesses and people’s family lives. That has always been my approach, and will continue to be.