European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Leaving the EU – in the House of Commons at 6:27 pm on 14th January 2019.

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Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade 6:27 pm, 14th January 2019

I will give way one more time in a moment.

There are also Members of this House who have advocated a second referendum, but there are three substantive problems with that suggestion: on practical grounds, democratic grounds and constitutional grounds. First, in practical terms, it would take time for this House and the other place to pass the necessary primary legislation. The Electoral Commission would also have to fulfil its statutory duty to assess the intelligibility of the question to be posed, a process that takes about 10 weeks. A further 12 weeks would be required between the question being determined and the referendum actually being held. It is therefore completely impractical to hold such a referendum before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union on 29 March. It is entirely possible to see such a process taking up to a year before it could be completed.

Secondly, there are clear democratic grounds to oppose a second referendum. This House voted overwhelmingly to hold the referendum to give the decision on Britain’s membership of the European Union to the British people. A “people’s vote” has already been held and it produced a clear, unambiguous instruction from the British electorate for us to leave the European Union. We are honour-bound to respect that.