Leaving the European Union — [David Hanson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:54 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 5:54 pm, 4th February 2019

I will carefully repeat what I just said: we—the Government—remain clear that our policy is not to revoke article 50, extend it, delay or hold a second referendum on exit. Perhaps it will help the debate if I re-outline the now very familiar reasons why the Government have taken this position. I remind hon. Members of the immense progress we have made towards delivering the exit that we, as a Government and as a Parliament, were entrusted to deliver.

First, let me deal with the overarching question of revoking article 50. As I have made clear, the Government’s policy remains that we should not and will not revoke our article 50 notice to withdraw from the European Union. To revoke article 50 would betray not only the vote of the British people in 2016, but the mandates on which the majority of us were elected at the last general election. I emphasise again to hon. Members the strength of the mandate and the clarity of the instruction given to us by the 2016 referendum, which illustrates why we must respect the result and why the Government’s policy is not to revoke article 50.

In the summer of 2016, millions of people came out to have their say, trusting that their vote would count and that, after years of feeling ignored by politicians, their voices would be heard. The referendum enjoyed a higher turnout than any previous referendum, with 17.4 million people voting to leave the European Union. That is the highest number of votes cast for anything in UK electoral history, and the biggest democratic mandate for a course of action ever directed at any UK Government. As I have reminded the shadow Minister and the House, the passion with which people voted was quite extraordinary. Those of us who toured polling stations on the day will remember pencilgate: people refused to put their cross in the box using a pencil, for fear that the Government would rub it out. The battles over trying to get a pen into a polling station to vote with were quite extraordinary.