Revoking Article 50: Voter Confidence

Exiting the European Union – in the House of Commons on 16th May 2019.

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Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby

What assessment the Government have made of the potential effect on voter confidence in (a) politicians and (b) democracy of revoking Article 50.

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Revoking article 50 would cause irreparable damage to the relationship between voters and the Members of Parliament who represent them. It would reverse the outcome of the 2016 referendum, betraying not only the 17.4 million voters who voted to leave but everyone who voted, putting their faith in our democracy at risk. Revoking article 50 would break the trust the British people place in politicians, in voting and in democracy.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. What steps is his Department taking to maintain the public’s faith in the importance of their votes and confidence in this Government delivering what they said they would deliver, particularly as we head into European elections that the public did not want, vote for or support?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Ultimately, there are only three ways that this situation can resolve itself: the UK leaves the EU with an agreement; the UK leaves without an agreement; or we revoke article 50 and do not leave. Leaving without a deal is undesirable, but not leaving is unacceptable. That is why the Government maintain the position that they want to leave the European Union with an agreement as quickly as possible, restoring people’s faith in the democratic process and honouring the commitment we made in the 2016 referendum.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Labour, East Ham

Next month, it will be three years since the referendum. Does the Minister regard the referendum choice as binding for all time? Does he not recognise that at some point it will be necessary to go back to the people and ask whether they still think leaving the EU is a good idea?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The Government’s position is that the referendum result is binding until it is delivered.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Will not the biggest danger to confidence in democracy come when the promised sunlit uplands fail to materialise? Is not the only way out of this mess to go back to the people and ask them to exercise their democratic choice?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The British people have already exercised their democratic choice. I do not subscribe to the negative predictions that the hon. Gentleman and others have made about a post-Brexit British future. More importantly, international businesses do not agree with him; inward investment into the UK is still flourishing. The employment market does not agree with his predictions either, because unemployment is still reducing and employment is still increasing. I am confident—the Government are confident—that there is a bright future ahead for this country outside the European Union. That is what we are committed to delivering and that is what we are working towards.