Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, has said that she will support the ‘Withdrawal from the European Union (Article 50) Bill 2016-17’ and vote to trigger Article 50 tonight.
While I voted Remain at the referendum, I think it is important that we now respect both electorate’s vote and the Supreme Court’s ruling. My constituency voted to leave the EU, with an above average turnout at 75.7 per cent. In the nation as a whole, 1,269,501 more people voted to leave than voted to remain. Even if a small minority of those who voted to leave regret doing so now – and I have seen little evidence of this locally – we cannot ignore the wishes of the majority. Moreover, I believe in our democracy, and not just when it accords with my own views. Brexit will happen, and I will vote today in support of Article 50.
Once the Prime Minister has invoked Article 50, we will begin our formal negotiations to leave the European Union. Nobody should believe that the negotiation process will be brief or straightforward – I certainly don’t. It is going to require significant expertise and a consistent approach. Regaining more control of the number of people who come here from Europe, while also allowing British companies to trade with the single market in goods and services, must be a priority. The ability to trade with EU member states is also vital to our prosperity. The Prime Minister made this clear in her recent speech at Lancaster House, during which she outlined twelve objectives that will guide the Government through the negotiations. A white paper will also be published shortly, which I will look at closely. It is essential that we get the best deal possible, and make the most of this opportunity. We must get it right.
Some of my constituents have raised their concerns about the advisory nature of last June’s referendum. While the vote was, legally-speaking, advisory, the Government made it very clear before 23 June that it would respect the result. The leaders of both campaigns also made this point. On 25 February 2016, the former Foreign Secretary (now Chancellor of the Exchequer) stated to the House of Commons:
“Leave means leave, and a vote to leave will trigger a notice under Article 50. To do otherwise in the event of a vote to leave would represent a complete disregard of the will of the people. No individual, no matter how charismatic or prominent, has the right or the power to redefine unilaterally the meaning of the question on the ballot paper. The Government’s position is that the referendum is an advisory one, but the Government will regard themselves as being bound by the decision of the referendum and will proceed with serving an Article 50 notice.”
I know that a significant minority of my constituents will find my stance disappointing. There will be a great deal of debating in the next few weeks, so if you have any specific points you would like me to make, do let me know by email and I will pass them on to the Government for their consideration.
Victoria Prentis MP (1 February 2017)