Why I'm supporting Brexit trade deal and why it's good for Scottish fishing - John Lamont
I will support this agreement today.
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.
I want to make three brief points.
First, about trade and jobs.
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.
The second point I want to make is on fishing. 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 per cent, increasing to 25 per cent 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 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.
My final point is about the nature of our future relationship with our neighbours.
Britain is a European country. So is Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
The fact that we have left the EU, and that those nations have never joined it, is immaterial.
We were Europeans before 1972 and we will remain Europeans after 2020.
On trade, fishing, security, criminal justice, aviation, transport, energy, tourism, scientific research and much else – this agreement is the basis for a new partnership between the United Kingdom and the 27 members of the EU.
This is not the end of the story. It is the beginning of a new chapter.
It will be the work of our lifetimes to build that new relationship in full.
This deal provides the basis for that work. It is the necessary first step.
The Prime Minister was right last week when he said that the UK will ‘remain culturally, emotionally, historically, [and] strategically…attached to Europe’.
And the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was right when she described this agreement as ‘the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.’
Those who want to manufacture grievance for their own political purposes will no doubt oppose this agreement today.
Those of us who believe in a bright future for Scotland and of the United Kingdom should have no hesitation in giving it our full support.
- John Lamont is a Scottish Conservative Party politician and solicitor, and the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.
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