In this column last week I set out my analysis of the EU withdrawal agreement. I did not however, say how I intended to vote, notwithstanding the very critical assessment that I had given. Since when, a number of constituents have enquired about my voting intention, and I have read in two national newspapers that I intend to vote against the agreement, those reports didn’t come from me.
I refrain from declaring my voting intentions because, as I write, the parliamentary debate hasn’t started, let alone concluded. I regard it as my duty, as the representative of all my constituents, to do them the courtesy of listening to, and reflecting on, the whole of the parliamentary debate.
Despite hundreds of emails (many of them multiple correspondence from the same senders) I estimate that less than 1% of my constituents have expressed their opinion to me. I also represent the 99% who haven’t, and I owe it to them to hear all the debate before deciding.
Of course, I do not begin as a blank sheet, I bring to the debate my opinions and my prejudice.
Constituents can clearly see that from what I have published and in my written responses to them, but to announce now how I will vote, would be to close my mind to information, arguments and events that may yet follow.
Last week I was highly critical of the proposed withdrawal agreement, and that hasn’t changed.
I do have to consider however, if there might be even worse outcomes, and to assess their likelihood.
I need to consider the probability of leaving the EU on 29 March without an agreement, and to weigh-up the costs and benefits of such an outcome.
Equally I need to consider the risk of our not leaving the EU at all.
There are 5 days of parliamentary days set aside to debate the withdrawal agreement and there will be plenty for us to consider and argue about. To decide and announce my decision now, would be to write- off five days of parliamentary time. Indeed, there is no point in having parliamentary debate at all, if we simply declare our decisions beforehand.