Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins responds to concerns about his Brexit stance

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins.
Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins.

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins has responded to concerns about his stance on Brexit.

In a letter in last week's Derbyshire Times, reader James McLoughlin claimed Mr Perkins was 'advocating a super-soft Brexit in name only'.

Mr Perkins has now hit back - insisting he 'respects the outcome of the referendum' and has voted 'entirely in line' with what he promised before last year's General Election.

In Chesterfield, 60 per cent of people voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

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'He has broken his election promise'

Mr McLoughlin's letter said: "Mr Perkins stated in his election literature that he would respect the result of the EU referendum.

"Since then, he has repeatedly called for a second referendum, including voting for one in Parliament.

"In September, in an interview to Peak FM he stated 'we had a referendum at a point when all of my constituents were unaware of what this would mean in terms of trade, we were unaware of what this would mean in terms of travel, we were unaware of what this would mean in terms of immigration. So the argument that if we trusted the people at a time when they didn't have those answers, but we shouldn't trust them when they do have those answers, I think it's quite a difficult argument to make'.

"He has also voted against virtually all Brexit legislation in Parliament and is advocating a super-soft 'Brexit in name only' in my view.

"Clearly he has broken his election promise, even though his constituency voted 60 per cent plus to leave the EU."

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Mr Perkins' full response

Mr Perkins told the Derbyshire Times this week: "I would invite Mr McLoughlin to look more carefully at my voting record and my election literature. If he does so, he will find that I have voted entirely in line with that which I promised to do before the 2017 General Election and not 'voted against virtually all Brexit legislation in Parliament'.

"While I campaigned for and voted for a remain vote, I was clear that I would respect the outcome of the referendum. My election leaflets said I would 'back a Brexit that delivered on the promises made for it'. I also said that Britain 'must be able to trade freely, control immigration and attract world class talent'.

"In Parliament I have voted to invoke Article 50, voted against revoking Article 50, voted against remaining in the single market and thus giving up control of immigration, and against leaving without a deal.

"While I regret the choice the country made, I believe that if we left the EU in line with the priorities I set out above and which I have voted for, most people would consider that it was in line with what the majority of leave voters were voting for, but would also reflect the fact that the referendum verdict was a narrow one. Under those circumstances, I believe that there would probably not be an argument for a people's vote, though if Parliament cannot agree on a way forward, that option should remain open.

"Both major parties made concluding a deal with the EU a central plank of their manifesto commitments in the 2017 General Election. So it is very hard to see how anyone can now claim a mandate for leaving without a deal. The Vote Leave campaign also made it clear that they were against no deal during the referendum. Their website read 'taking back control is a careful change, not a sudden step. We will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave'.

"I accept that there are some hard Brexiteers who now advocate no deal but as neither of the parties who secured the majority of votes in the 2017 General Election, nor the Vote Leave campaign during the referendum, were advocating leaving without a deal, it is hard to see where any mandate for that would come from. I have met many businesses around Chesterfield who have made it clear that leaving the EU without a deal would be disastrous for our economy, jobs and consumers.

"Finally, we must remember that the responsibility for the current chaos resides squarely at the feet of the Government. They held the referendum but did no planning for leave winning, they invoked Article 50 without a clear plan for the kind of Brexit they wanted to deliver, they held a General Election and then refused to work with other parties even when they lost their majority, and they continue to promote a deal that has been rejected by Parliament three times rather than make any serious attempts to reach a consensus that might re-unite our divided country."

Mr Perkins has also written this blog about Brexit on his website.

Mr Perkins' constituents can see how he has voted on Brexit and other issues on www.theyworkforyou.com