Brexit: Harrogate and Knaresborough MP defends decision to back Article 50 bill

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones has defended his decision to back the government's European Union Bill, arguing that "Brexit means Brexit".

Tuesday, 7th February 2017, 9:26 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th February 2017, 12:09 pm
Andrew Jones

Mr Jones was one of 498 MPs that voted in favour of allowing Prime Minister Theresa May to get Brexit negotiations under way last Wednesday (February 1).

However, many residents across the district have raised concerns over Mr Jones' vote arguing that Harrogate voted to Remain in June's referendum.

Harrogate was one of just three places in Yorkshire, along with York and Leeds, who voted to remain in the EU with the Leave vote eventually triumphing by 52 per cent.

Despite Mr Jones also campaigning for Remain, the Conservative MP argued that the UK should "unite around the democratic decision of the British people."

In a letter to constituents, Mr Jones wrote: "I made this decision (to campaign for Remain) because I felt our economic future would be more certain inside the European Union.

"I still feel that to be the case - we have months if not years of negotiations to come until we know our trade arrangements with many countries.

"However, I also understood many of the concerns about sovereignty and immigration which led to a decisive victory for Leave. I am a democrat and as such I respect the outcome of the referendum.

"I was elected as Member of Parliament for Harrogate and Knaresborough in 2015 on a manifesto which said I would support a referendum on membership of the EU, and that I would respect the outcome of the national vote. That is what I intend to do."

"It is my opinion that from 24 June 2016 we should no longer consider ourselves Remain or Leave, but instead people united around the democratic decision of the British people."

Following the vote, residents have accused Mr Jones of failing to reflect the voice of constituents and performing an "alarming" U-turn by voting for Article 50.

Laverton Gardens resident Rob Edwards said: "I accept that MPs are not delegates and are expected to make up their own minds but given his previous pro-remain views I find that a surprising vote.

"Some MPs have said that they have to accept the referendum result but as Harrogate voted to remain in the EU that would also suggest that he would vote that way.

"I can only conclude that his loyalty to the Conservative party is stronger that that to either his own views or those of his constituents. I find that very disappointing."

However, Mr Jones hit back at claims over his loyalty or the validity of the vote, arguing that more people voted for Leave "than have voted for any choice in the history of the UK".

In his regular Advertiser column, Mr Jones explained that, although his vote did not prevail, he has pledged to honour the result of the referendum - adding that politicians "should keep their promises".

He said: "If every MP ignored the referendum result and voted on Article 50 reflecting how their constituency voted then Article 50 would still be triggered as a majority of constituencies backed Leave.

"Some argue for a second referendum so that people can assess again whether they made the right choice and claims made by the Leave campaign can be scrutinised. I do not support this move.

"The claims of both sides were scrutinised, counter claims made, errors exposed and when it came to it the voters made a judgment based on all of that information.

"So for me, Brexit means Brexit. And we have to ensure that we make a success of it."