Extending Article 50

Thank you for contacting me about extending Article 50.

We had a free and fair referendum in 2016. Over one million more people voted to leave the EU than to remain and Parliament voted by 494 to 122 in March 2017 to invoke Article 50. In the General Election of that year, more than 80 per cent of people voted for parties that pledged in their manifestos to leave the EU.

I believe that the Government has a clear democratic mandate to see through this instruction from the electorate and I have substantial reservations about extending Article 50. Delaying our exit from the EU could undermine trust in our democratic system and frustrating the result could damage social cohesion.

The EU is unlikely to agree to an extension without a clear plan outlining how a deal will be achieved. The consequence of ruling out no deal if Parliament cannot approve an agreement would be to revoke Article 50. This would go against the referendum result and would damage people's faith in our political system.

There is no intention of delaying Article 50. The British people voted to leave the EU and the UK will leave in March. This is a matter of UK and EU law. To delay Article 50 would pour scorn over the referendum result and the wishes of over 17.4 million people. It could damage the trust of the electorate in the democratic process.

Returning British MEPs to the European Parliament when the UK is in the process of leaving the EU could also present practical difficulties. The new European Parliament, for instance, would be involved in electing the new European Commission President. I believe that having British MEPs participate in the process only to leave shortly afterwards would show contempt for the European political system.

The EU has also already published plans to redistribute the seats of British MEPs to other member states.

It is incumbent upon Parliament to fulfil the process of leaving the EU in a way that respects democratic process. That is why I believe the Government is right to maintain its commitment to leave the EU on 29 March.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.