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 heard that many a time. [Interruption.] No, it is not a call for proportional representation. Members should be careful what they wish for. I was elected under proportional representation for the first time in 1999. While it was a lovely system for getting me elected to the European Parliament, it is not a good system for voters who want democratic choices to be delivered.

Parliament overwhelmingly confirmed the referendum result by voting with clear and convincing majorities in both Houses for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017. Parliament, informed by the will of its electorate, voted to trigger article 50 and leave the European Union. Further still, in the 2017 general election, more than 80% of voters voted for parties committed to respecting the result of the referendum. Not only Government Members but Opposition Members were elected on manifestos committing to respecting the decision of the people.

We made promises and commitments to the people we represent from when we held the referendum to when we as a Parliament voted to begin the process of implementing its result. The British people must be able to trust in their Government to both effect their will and deliver the best outcome for them. As the Prime Minister said,

“This is about more than the decision to leave the EU;
it is about whether the public can trust their politicians to put in place the decision they took.”

To do otherwise would undermine the decision of the British people and disrespect the powerful democratic values of this country and of this Government. We therefore cannot and must not frustrate the will of the people by revoking article 50.

Despite that, I understand that there are those who advocate revoking, extending or otherwise delaying our article 50 notice. Parliament is clear that it does not wish to deliver no deal; it expressed that last week in the House. The obvious conclusion is that we must secure a deal to deliver the exit for which people voted. The only alternative, as the Prime Minister has laid out, is revoking article 50. That is not Government policy and it would, as she said, disrespect the biggest vote in our democratic history. The Prime Minister has also been clear that other delays, such as through extending article 50, would not resolve the issue of the deal with which we leave the European Union. Moreover, as she reminded the House this week, the 29 March 2019 exit date is the one that Parliament itself voted for when it voted to trigger article 50. The Government are clear on their notice to withdraw under article 50 as instructed by the British people.

I reiterate to hon. Members that this Government are committed to delivering on the result of the referendum. It remains our policy not to revoke article 50 and not to frustrate the outcome of the 2016 referendum, which I trust will please the petitioners. Instead, we continue to work to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities to deliver on the result of the vote by the British people in the summer of 2016 to leave the European Union.