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European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:02 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee 9:02 pm, 3rd September 2019

I think there was also a menu of options available to those who voted remain, and I know many people who voted remain who wish that we would now just get on and leave. I do not think the hon. Lady makes a valid point or, indeed, undermines the fundamental point that we now have a constitution in which there are competing legitimacies. Some people are resting the authority of their argument on the representative mandate and some—the Government in particular—on the popular vote.

It is at least as much a constitutional outrage that we are still in the European Union three years after the referendum, and that tomorrow’s potential Bill should propose to hand the question of how we leave not back to this House, but to the European Union to decide—[Interruption.] It is absolutely true, because that is exactly what clause 3(2) of the draft Bill says.

The bitterness of tonight’s exchanges reflects the breakdown of our shared understanding about which mandate is legitimate: the representative or the direct. We now have a constitution containing competing ideas of legitimacy, and unless we are to abandon referendums this House should be ready to implement popular decisions that it does not like, but it has shown some reluctance to do so. If we refuse to do so, I again agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset that that will have consequences for the credibility of Parliament in the eyes of our electors. We will see the revival of alternative political parties, and I fear that this House is taking politics in that direction. The sovereignty of Parliament is not risk, but our democratic legitimacy certainly is.