MPs reject petition call to quit EU now

Suella Fernandes

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Suella Fernandes urged voters to have patience with Brexit talks

MPs on all sides rejected a petition signed by 137,731 people to leave the EU immediately, in a Commons debate.

Brexit minister Suella Fernandes hailed the “total consensus” on display.

Some MPs, such as leave-supporting Tory Paul Scully, said they understood the frustrations of people who had signed the petition and said their views should be respected.

But none spoke in favour of the petition’s call to leave now with no deal, during the three hour debate.

Most of the leading Eurosceptics on the Conservative benches did not attend, leaving the floor clear for remain-supporting SNP, Lib Dem and Labour MPs – and Conservatives from both sides of the Brexit debate.

‘Take back control’

The petition, which was launched in September, called on the government to “walk away from the Article 50 negotiations and leave the EU immediately with no deal”.

It added: “The EU looks set to offer us a punishment deal out of spite. Why wait another 18 months when we could leave right away and fully take back control of our country, lawmaking powers and borders?”

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Paul Scully urged anti-Brexit voters to have patience

Paul Scully opened the debate in Westminster Hall, an annexe to the main Commons chamber, by telling MPs: “I can understand why people feel this way.”

Most of the people who had signed it were from Leave-voting areas and some felt passionately about it, he said, that “would be happy to be a little poorer to achieve their long-term aim”.

But he added: “I am patient enough to know that this government is moving on the right track and we should give them every chance.”

‘Human impact’

Remain-supporting Tory MP Antoinette Sandbach claimed nuclear power stations would grind to a halt and planes would be grounded if Britain left the EU immediately with no deal.

She added: “The economic impact would be significant” and the “human impact” would leave Britons living in the EU “in the lurch” and the subject of non-EU citizen immigration laws.

She argued that remaining a member of the European Free Trade Area, like Norway, could be an alternative back-up plan instead of WTO rules if no deal is achieved in the Brexit negotiations.

The SNP’s Europe spokesman Peter Grant echoed Ms Sandbach’s predictions of economic and social ruin, saying: “I genuinely don’t understand what people who signed this petition think is going to happen if we were to leave tomorrow without a deal.”

Labour’s shadow minister for Exiting the EU, Jenny Chapman, said: “Nobody voted to be poorer, and to lose their job, for chaos, to be less safe, that is what would happen if we accepted as we are urged to do, the petition.”

Brexit minister Suella Fernandes urged those who had signed the petition to have patience, saying: “Time is needed so that we can make the best of Brexit.”

Responding to the debate for the government, she said: “There has been a total consensus here that the UK should not walk away from the negotiations now and should continue to build on the progress that has been achieved and work towards seeking that new, dynamic relationship with the EU through an agreement.”

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