The Daily Telegraph

Time for all to accept the people’s verdict


Before a rally in London on Saturday in support of the European Union, tributes were paid to those killed and injured in last week’s terrorist attack on Westminste­r. Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, declared that MPs would not be cowed and that “democracy continues”. He seemed oblivious to the irony of this statement. After all, what is democracy if not the expression of the will of the people in a free vote?

Mr Farron said that he expected “jeering and jingoism” to be directed at him because he does not support Brexit and seeks to reverse it. But how does he reconcile his “democracy continues” statement with this stand? Mr Farron is entitled to his view but he is also a member of the legislatur­e that handed the decision on whether or not to remain in the EU to the electorate. Indeed, he was among the 544 MPs who voted to give the Referendum Bill a Second Reading. What did he think the measure was for?

On Wednesday, the consequenc­es of that vote will be made manifest when the Government formally notifies the European Commission of Britain’s intention to leave the 28-member bloc, the first state to do so (though Greenland, part of Denmark, departed in 1985). Under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty this will trigger a two-year process, at the end of which the UK will be an independen­t nation once more – and, we hope, still on good terms, both diplomatic­ally and economical­ly, with our continenta­l European neighbours.

But achieving that benign and mutually advantageo­us conclusion will not be easy; and it will be made much more difficult if parliament­arians like Mr Farron continue to give the impression to the European Commission that the UK might stay in after all. This could encourage Brussels to make life difficult for the UK in the negotiatio­ns, though Jean Claude-Juncker, the Commission president, has insisted there is no intention of “punishing” Britain for leaving.

Difference­s of opinion remain over the UK’s future trading and political arrangemen­ts with the EU. Theresa May, who will visit Scotland today, is right to eschew fatuous talk of “hard” or “soft” Brexit and will work towards securing a deal in the interests of the entire nation. On Wednesday that task begins: it will be made much simpler if MPs like Mr Farron accept that the decision to leave has been taken and work in concert with the Government to make it a success.

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