Leaving the European Union — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 7:12 pm on 1st April 2019.

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Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 7:12 pm, 1st April 2019

I am afraid I completely disagree.

Let me be clear. To revoke article 50 or to hold a second referendum would be failing to deliver on the commitments we have made. Parliament once again rejected those motions last week. Second-guessing or otherwise reversing the outcome of the 2016 vote damages the trust that British people place in their Government. It gives cause for British people to lose faith in politics and politicians and in the most important democratic practice of all—voting. I recognise, in the midst of the uncertainty, that the petitioners question why the British people should not have a chance to have a second say —a second vote—on Brexit. However, I ask Members what guarantees we could give, if we cannot show that we can uphold and respect the results of one referendum, that we could respect and uphold the results of a second. Would we need a third, or the best of five? What would prevent a third referendum? When would the uncertainty and the back-and-forth asking of the question end? When could we consider ourselves to have settled the question?

The Government believe we have settled the question. It was settled by the British people in the 2016 referendum. To question that vote and try to undermine what was expressed in it is a harmful precedent to set, and one that the Government are firmly unwilling to set. However, people have expressed an important message to us through the petitions. Through them, we recognise the frustrations and concerns caused by the current uncertainty. It is our view, and Parliament’s view as expressed in numerous votes last week in the indicative vote process, that the solution is not to revoke article 50 or hold a second referendum, thereby irreparably damaging the relationship between people and politics, but to try to move forward with certainty as we deliver on the instruction that was given to us. That is what the Government are trying to do.