IN THE 2014 Scottish Independence referendum I campaigned head, heart, body and soul to keep our United Kingdom together and to stop the SNP from breaking it up. Since my election to the House of Commons at every turn I have fought fiercely against SNP attempts to weaponise Brexit in order to tear our country apart.
I bow to no one in my fundamental belief in our Union of nations and my defence of Scotland’s place within it.
It is because I am a Unionist first and foremost, committed to protecting our Union, that I cannot in all good conscience support the Prime Minister’s draft withdrawal agreement from the EU.
This draft deal includes a backstop arrangement that would mean hiving-off Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK through a separate regulatory regime leaving Northern Ireland closer in alignment with the EU (and the Republic of Ireland) than the UK.
No Unionist can support a plan that gives Brussels (and the Republic of Ireland) more say over trade and rules in NI than the UK Parliament.
In the House of Commons during the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill Scottish Conservatives argued hard that, as powers returned from Brussels to the UK, we would require UK-wide frameworks on areas such as food labelling, animal welfare and plant health in order to protect the integrity of the UK internal market. Further we all argued that UK frameworks are needed to safeguard the UK’s ability to sign up to new trade deals. We were right then and we are right now.
I struggle, therefore, to comprehend how anyone who ever argued in favour of those much needed UK frameworks can now support a plan that fundamentally drives a coach and horses through the integrity of that very internal market. A plan that would keep Northern Ireland in the single market, a plan that would draw a regulatory border down the Irish Sea, a plan that prevents the UK from signing its own trade deals – and most troubling of all places trade barriers within the UK that erode the integrity of the UK. I simply will not stand by and allow our United Kingdom to be broken up by the back door.
Unionists that promote the line that Northern Ireland’s circumstances are different simply feed the nationalist narrative in Scotland. We have already seen Nicola Sturgeon leaping on any suggestion of a differential deal for Northern Ireland, and we can expect the SNP to continue to demand separate arrangements from Scotland.
The Prime Minister’s plan also falls far short on what we have been promised in relation to fishing. Fishermen across Scotland voted to leave the EU in order to take back control of our waters. Therefore I have been clear that we must leave the Common Fisheries Policy in December 2020, and we must have sovereignty over our waters. That means we decide who comes in to fish and on what terms. Anything less than that would be unacceptable to fishermen in Scotland.
I backed David Mundell in writing to the Prime Minister to make it clear that his blood red line would be the integrity of the UK. It very much still is my red line. By supporting the PM’s plan we would be putting our Union at risk throughout different arrangements for Northern Ireland. I am therefore concerned that Scottish Conservatives supporting this proposal will never recover from the posturing followed by capitulation.
Not every member of the 13 strong group of MPs supports the PM’s plan and that’s healthy for both our party and our country.
In 2014 I campaigned to keep the UK together which is why I cannot vote for the PM’s plan.