Statement from Alister Jack on the proposed Withdrawal Agreement

“When the Prime Minister returned with Brussels with a deal on 25th November the wheels were set in motion for MPs to debate and, ultimately, vote on whether to accept or reject it.

“After deliberating over the contents of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration I sought further assurances from the Government.

“I have always said that I could not, and would not, support a deal that undermined or threatened the integrity of our United Kingdom, and it is because of this that I had serious reservations about the Backstop arrangement.

“If the UK and EU do not reach an agreement on our future relationship by December 2020, MPs will be able to decide whether to request an extension to the Implementation Period, which would have financial implications, or enter the backstop arrangement.  As uncomfortable as this would be, the text is clear that this arrangement would only be temporary, and it would not be in the EU’s interests to maintain such an arrangement for longer than absolutely necessary. 

“The Withdrawal Agreement also confirms that if the backstop arrangement was to be activated, the UK would be treated as a single customs territory and nothing in the Protocol will prevent the UK from meeting its commitment to unfettered access to the UK’s internal market for Northern Ireland businesses.  This is a particularly welcome commitment for the Port of Cairnryan which handles approximately 45% of Northern Ireland’s trade with the rest of the UK.

“While I would prefer a provision for the UK to decide, unilaterally, to exit the Backstop or for an end date to be inserted.  I am reassured by the Attorney General that “Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union does not provide a legal basis in Union law for permanent future arrangements with non-member states” and would therefore only be temporary.

“Failing that, as was highlighted in the Times leader of the 16th November, there is nothing to stop Britain unilaterally repudiating the Withdrawal Agreement under the Vienna Convention.

“I believe this is a deal that reflects the closeness of the referendum result by delivering the British people’s desire to leave the European Union at the same time as protecting jobs and our economy, especially those that rely on integrated supply chains.  The Environment Secretary said that we should not make the perfect the enemy of the good, and I agree.  

“It also guarantees the rights of EU citizens who live in our country and contribute so much to our society, and the rights of Brits who live and work in other EU member states.

“When we leave the EU, and as a result of this deal, the UK will be able to strike new trade deals around the world; have more control over who accesses our fishing waters as we will be out of the Common Fisheries Policy and an independent Coastal State; and, create a support system that meets the needs of our own farming and rural communities.

“By not supporting this deal we risk the very real threat of a second referendum.  This would not only create further uncertainty and sow even more division, but potentially result in no Brexit at all.  As someone who voted leave in 2016, I want the Government to get on and deliver the result of that referendum.  It should also be noted that a majority of constituencies in the UK voted leave, and furthermore that 90% of the MPs elected in 2017 stood on a manifesto commitment to deliver Brexit.

“We have a unique opportunity to create a bright future for our country as an independent free trading nation and as the focus moves to the negotiations on our future relationship.  It’s time to get on and make it happen and for those reasons I have decided to support this deal.”

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