Will Quince, MP for Colchester has published his update on the EU Withdrawal Agreement.
“I would like to start by reiterating that I voted to leave the European Union, and since the referendum I have been consistently clear that this democratic decision should be respected and delivered by the Government.
“The Colchester constituency was fairly evenly split in the 2016 EU Referendum, and I appreciate the need to consider every constituent’s views. However, the country voted to leave the European Union.
“This must be delivered and the Government has been clear that we will be leaving the European Union on the 29 March 2019.
“Turning specifically to the forthcoming vote, this is undoubtedly the most important decision that I have had to make as your Member of Parliament since my election in 2015.”
Ensuring my decision is informed
“With regards to what actions I am taking to ensure my decision is an informed one, I have reviewed the Withdrawal Agreement, and since my previous statement (published Friday 16 November), I have met with the Attorney General to discuss my concerns in person, and attended a further briefing with the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.
“I am also currently concluding the series of meetings I have held to establish whether this deal works for Colchester.
“On Friday 30 November I will be hosting a meeting of over 60 representatives of Colchester’s largest private sector employers along with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss MP, to hear their views on the impact of the agreement upon our local economy.”
“Protecting jobs and the future prosperity of Colchester, while delivering upon the result of the referendum, is and always will be at the forefront of my mind.
“Next week I have meetings scheduled with the Secretary of State Steve Barclay MP and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris MP in the Department for Exiting the European Union.
“Finally, I am also reviewing the hundreds of emails and letters that I continue to receive from constituents on this issue. Your views do matter to me, and I would like to thank everyone that has taken the time to contact me and who will do so in the coming days.”
Pragmatic and measured decision
“My priority is to make a decision that is both pragmatic and measured, taking into account the views of those who voted remain and leave as we will all be bound by the result of this vote.
“Many have understandably asked for my decision on whether I will vote for or against the deal next month.
“While I am close to coming to my conclusion, I cannot declare it until I have finished my meetings with local businesses, DEXEU Ministers and am aware of what I am voting for or against.
“What I mean by this, is that a very real possibility exists that MPs from other parties may seek to amend the motion in the coming days to include alternative provisions, such as the possibility of a second referendum should the deal be rejected.
“I cannot declare a position until I know what I will be voting on, as I am concerned that a defeat of this deal could lead to no Brexit at all via a second referendum.
“I will reiterate that as I follow the specifics of the deal closely, your views will be hugely important in helping to form the position I will reach, and I encourage you to contact me. When I am aware what the amendments will be, I will declare my position.”
Best interests of Colchester
“My role is to use my judgement as to what I believe is in the best interests of Colchester and our country, and to do this I need to know the specifics of what I will be voting on.
“Secondly, as we approach the 11 December vote I will be considering the views of all my constituents, many of whom are yet to make up their minds.
“The Prime Minister is embarking upon a campaign to sell the advantages of the deal directly to the public, culminating in a televised debate.
“As a result, I will no doubt receive an enormous amount of correspondence from constituents expressing their opinion in the coming days.”
Differing views and opinions
“Events will be fast-paced and I am aware there are differing views and opinions in both Westminster and Colchester. I believe that it is my role as your MP to soberly assess the proposed EU Withdrawal Agreement on its own merits, and also in the context of the alternatives and the remaining time available.
“I will therefore be producing a statement outlining my final position in advance of the vote when the picture is clearer, however I appreciate you will want to know my position on certain known aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement now.”
“With regards to the negatives I perceive in the current agreement, as I have previously stated, should the Withdrawal Agreement receive Parliamentary approval as it currently stands and no subsequent agreement on our future relationship with the European Union be reached, I am seriously concerned that we could risk being locked into in an indefinite Customs Union without the UK retaining the ability to give unilateral notice of its intention to leave.
“To have voted for Brexit only to find the United Kingdom tied to European Union rules without a say in what those rules are would forfeit the advantages of remaining within the European Union, without securing the advantages of Brexit.
“I am aware that many leave and remain voters are united in their dissatisfaction with such an outcome. In addition, with the UK unable to unilaterally leave the Protocol relating to Northern Ireland, our precious union would be put at risk, and I cannot accept any deal that would threaten our Union.
“Some have argued we should accept this deal because it is the only deal we have before us, but I do not believe the Withdrawal Agreement should be automatically accepted on this basis.
“I would also like to acknowledge the individual concerns raised by some of my constituents with regards to the Agreement, as those thoughts have been noted.”
Replace freedom of movement
“On the other hand, the current deal is not without considerable merit. It enables us to replace freedom of movement with an alternative immigration system which we control, contains provisions designed to protect jobs from the uncertainty of a disorderly exit, and will protect the integrity of the United Kingdom.
“The deal also ends the £10bn per annum net payments, albeit at the cost of a £39bn divorce bill that honours our outstanding legal commitments to European projects. It also ends the unfettered jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, with some exceptions.
“Under this deal, we have also secured a comprehensive security partnership which includes close reciprocal law enforcement and judicial cooperation while respecting the UK’s independent foreign policy.”
Strong concerns over backstop
“Nevertheless, my strong concerns over the backstop remain, and have not been remedied to date. I hope they will be in the coming days.
“On the subject of the Prime Minister’s position, I do not believe that undermining the Prime Minister through supporting a leadership challenge would serve the national interest.
“I believe she deserves huge personal credit for the way in which she has conducted negotiations with the European Union under challenging circumstances, and has displayed admirable courage and resilience in the face of criticism on all sides, criticism that has often descended into disgraceful and unwarranted personal attacks upon her character.
“I am convinced that she firmly believes that this deal is in our national interest, which she will promote to the public in the coming days.
“I respect her tenacity, for with a country divided by the EU Referendum and no overall majority for any political party, reaching a deal that would receive approval from all viewpoints was always going to be difficult, but she has refused to shy away from this challenge.”
“I fully appreciate that many constituents will want to know how I intend to vote on 11 December, but I hope you will appreciate that I have a difficult decision ahead and cannot arrive at it prematurely, especially before the multi-day parliamentary debate has even begun or before we know what amendments may be laid.
“I must conclude my meetings with Colchester businesses this Friday, meet with DEXEU Ministers, consult further with constituents and undertake the necessary due diligence to consider all possible outcomes that could result from the deal’s acceptance or rejection.
“You deserve nothing less than for all sides of the argument to be heard, for your neighbours who are yet to write in to have their say, for the deal to be sufficiently scrutinised, and weighed against the possible alternatives.
“When I have arrived at my decision, I will publish a statement on my website, social media accounts, and explain my position to all constituents who contact me.”
Will Quince MP – Colchester