On 9 June 2015, Parliament voted by 544 to 53 to give the British people the chance to determine their own future by means of a national referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union.
Greg Hands MP campaigned hard in the ensuing Referendum for a “Remain” vote. However, on 23 June 2016, the British people voted to leave the European Union.
On 24 January this year, the Supreme Court announced its decision that an Act of Parliament would be required for the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. Respect for the judiciary is one of the cornerstones of British society. Accordingly, the Government is abiding by the Court’s judgment in full.
Last Wednesday, 1 February, following two days of debate, Parliament voted by 498 to 114 – an overwhelming majority of 384 – in favour of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill on second reading, which will authorise the Government’s invoking of Article 50. Numerous further votes were held this week, seeking to amend the legislation. None were successful, and now the Bill passes to the Lords unopposed.
Commenting on the Government’s Bill, Member of Parliament for Chelsea & Fulham, Greg Hands, said: “This Bill seeks to honour the Government’s commitment to implement the decision taken by the British people to leave the European Union. The EU Referendum was a nationwide vote by the British people. More people voted in the EU Referendum than in any general election since 1992.
“As my constituents will recall, I campaigned energetically to remain in the European Union and, like the majority of my constituents in Chelsea & Fulham, I voted for the UK to remain. Nevertheless, this was a nationwide referendum, and I believe that it would be democratically dangerous and overwhelmingly arrogant to ignore the wishes of the majority of the nation – 17.4 million people – who voted to leave the European Union. For this reason I voted to support the Government’s Bill, which will allow the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50 in respecting the outcome of the Referendum.
“This was not an easy decision: Members of Parliament on all sides of the House of Commons have commented this week that, while it is imperative for us to defend democracy, doing so is easy when we agree with the majority, but far more difficult when we disagree with the majority.
“I am not prepared to ignore the majority verdict of the largest democratic exercise in British history. I hope that this explains my decision, and I thank all those who have taken the time to contact me on an issue of national significance.”