‘It would be dan­ger­ous to try and over­turn the will of the peo­ple’: Don­ald­son

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS / POLITICS - BY VIC­TO­RIA LEONARD

DUP MP Sir Jef­frey Don­ald­son has said that MPs plot­ting to ob­struct Brexit are “mov­ing into very dan­ger­ous ter­ri­tory in­deed”.

Speak­ing to the Belfast Tele­graph yes­ter­day, Sir Jef­frey com­mented on re­ports in the Sun­day Times that rebel back­bench MPs are seek­ing to change Com­mons rules.

It would mean back­benchers’ mo­tions take prece­dence over gov­ern­ment busi­ness — a move that could al­low them to sus­pend Ar­ti­cle 50, put Brexit on hold and po­ten­tially lead to the ref­er­en­dum re­sult be­ing over­turned.

He said he “re­mains hope­ful” that an “agreed way for­ward” can be se­cured.

“If par­lia­men­tar­i­ans think it’s a good idea, and will strengthen our par­lia­men­tary democ­racy by seek­ing to over­turn the will of the peo­ple by us­ing some spu­ri­ous de­vice to change the rules of how Par­lia­ment con­ducts its busi­ness, then they are mov­ing into very dan­ger­ous ter­ri­tory in­deed,” he said.

“I can­not be­lieve that any­one who be­lieves in democ­racy and who cher­ishes our sys­tem of par­lia­men­tary democ­racy would want to en­gage in such an ac­tion that would be about sub­vert­ing the will of the British peo­ple.

“Peo­ple are en­ti­tled to op­pose the gov­ern­ment, but what they’re not en­ti­tled to do is to un­der­mine the demo­crat­i­cally ex­pressed rule of the peo­ple.”

Sir Jef­frey dis­missed as “pre­ma­ture” sug­ges­tions that the Brexit leav­ing date should be pushed back as there are “still sev­eral weeks left un­til March 29”.

Ad­dress­ing re­ports that some MPs want to make it il­le­gal for the UK to leave the EU with­out a Brexit deal, he added: “I re­main hope­ful that an ac­com­mo­da­tion can be achieved that en­ables the UK to leave with a deal — that’s what we’re fo­cused on.

“We’re not fo­cused on the shenani­gans that some par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who ought to know bet­ter are try­ing to en­gage in at this stage in or­der to frus­trate Brexit.”

He said a sec­ond Brexit poll would “make a non­sense of the con­cept of hav­ing a ref­er­en­dum” and, if the vote was pro-Re­main, “it would be no time un­til we had a third ref­er­en­dum”. And he said he wasn’t re­as­sured by re­ports that the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion would shortly pub­lish a let­ter em­pha­sis­ing the tem­po­rary na­ture of the con­tentious Ir­ish bor­der back­stop. “We know that the back­stop is tem­po­rary,” he said. “The prob­lem is that the back­stop is in­def­i­nite in its na­ture and there­fore there is a mas­sive con­tra­dic­tion at the heart of the back­stop — that what is sup­posed to be a tem­po­rary pro­vi­sion has no end date, and con­se­quently we need changes to be made.

“Even if they were to give a let­ter, it’s not le­gally bind­ing. What­ever as­sur­ances are forth­com­ing from Brus­sels, they have to have clear, le­gal force.”

Sir Jef­frey said his party would sup­port Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May should she face a no con­fi­dence vote if Tues­day’s Brexit vote goes against the gov­ern­ment.

Com­ment­ing on ugly scenes in­volv­ing pro­test­ers chal­leng­ing some MPs out­side the House of Com­mons, Sir Jef­frey said he had faced harass­ment “on many oc­ca­sions” over his Brexit stance. “I’ve been in sit­u­a­tions where you’re do­ing in­ter­views and there’s heck­ling, play­ing loud mu­sic and there are peo­ple who crowd round, who push, shove and shout pro­fan­i­ties,” he stated.

“That is now a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence in the vicin­ity of Par­lia­ment. It’s hap­pen­ing on both sides and it should stop. It didn’t ever hap­pen be­fore Brexit.

“Harass­ment of any politi­cian is wrong and I would call upon peo­ple, whether they sup­port or op­pose Brexit, to act within the law and to re­spect each other.”

Mr Don­ald­son said he re­mains “hope­ful that we can get an agreed way for­ward” over Brexit, adding that his party had made it clear to the Prime Min­is­ter “the deal in its cur­rent form is un­ac­cept­able”.

❝ What­ever as­sur­ances are forth­com­ing from Brus­sels, they have to have clear, le­gal force

Hope­ful: Sir Jef­frey Don­ald­son

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