I AM very grateful to all local residents who have contacted me so far with their thoughts on the House of Commons vote on the government’s Brexit agreement this coming Tuesday. I have been taking careful note of what constituents are saying, and want to hear from the widest possible range of York Outer residents.

I come to this vote as a moderate and pragmatic Leave supporter, who believes Brexit is an opportunity for a new and better UK relationship with Europe, and renewed engagement with the wider world beyond. I also believe it is essential that we leave the EU in a way that protects our economy, safeguarding jobs and investment.

The decisions of the next few weeks, and the consequences that flow from them, are of genuinely historic importance, and I am therefore taking some time to consider how I should vote. Although it represents a considerable negotiating achievement for the government, I have some significant reservations about the deal.

I think Ministers need to respond to concerns over whether we would be trapped permanently in the ‘backstop’ temporary customs arrangement with the EU, meant as a last resort if we are unable to agree a satisfactory trade and customs arrangement with the EU that avoids the need to erect a hard border in Northern Ireland.

I appreciate that this is meant only as an insurance policy, but I feel the government needs to make clear that we could not be held in this customs arrangement with the EU against our will. I am concerned by the possibility that being trapped in this way could weaken our negotiating hand in talks on a future trade agreement with the EU.

I also think it is vital for the government to address concerns over the role of the European Court of Justice under the agreement, and to reassure people that this agreement will not prevent our country signing new trade agreements with nations outside Europe.

Against these concerns, I am encouraged by the fact that the government’s deal provides for an orderly exit from the EU. In particular, it secures the way to a special UK trade agreement with the EU based on free trade and zero tariffs, something many people said would be impossible to achieve.

It also delivers on other headline Brexit requirements, taking us out of the political framework of the EU, regaining full control of our borders and fisheries, taking us out of the Common Agricultural Policy, and ensuring no more large annual payments to Brussels.

It is important to remember that if Parliament rejects the deal, we could end up in a situation where the options are either ‘no deal’, or no Brexit, both of which would not be good for our country. I think no deal could mean an economic correction, which could cost jobs and increase the cost of living.

Even more positive economic analyses also suggest we would lose a percentage point of economic growth. While I am confident we could get over these effects in a couple of years, I think it is reasonable to ask if this is a gamble worth taking.

The failure of the deal could also start a drift towards remaining in the EU, perhaps via attempts to call a second referendum. This would mean annulling the result of the 2016 referendum, which was held on the explicit promise that the government would respect the result. I think for politicians to break this promise would be very damaging for our democracy.

Given the uncertainty over whether the government’s deal will pass, I have also been considering alternative solutions that both deliver on the referendum result and could command a majority in Parliament.

I am increasingly persuaded of the merits of some variation on the ‘Norway option’ as a Plan B, with the UK leaving the EU for the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This would free us from being trapped in the EU Customs Union via the backstop, and allow trade with Europe without EU political control.

This is not a simple decision, and there are no easy answers, but I would like residents to know I am continuing to think and to listen, so that I make sure my final decision is in the best interests of our city, and our country.