MPs demand no-deal departure amid fresh warning delay could kill Brexit

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Local MPs
MPs Sir Chris Chope (Christchurch), Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) and Julian Lewis (New Forest East)

LOCAL MPs have called on the prime minister to take the UK out of the EU without a deal, as one repeated his warning that delay might mean Brexit never happens.

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Conservatives Julian Lewis, of New Forest East, and Sir Chris Chope, of Christchurch, have both urged the government to leave as soon as possible – even if it means crashing out without an agreement.

During prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Brexiter Sir Chris told Theresa May he agreed with a reported 14 members of the cabinet now backing no-deal.

Dr Lewis echoed that position when, during an earlier debate on petitions against leaving the EU, he described departing on World Trade Organisation terms as the “right solution”.

However, yesterday (Wednesday) the Commons passed by one vote a bill ordering the government to seek an Article 50 extension to avoid a no-deal departure, which must still be approved by the Lords.

On Monday they both joined New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne in voting against every option in four indicative votes on a fresh referendum, revoking Article 50 to avoid no-deal, a customs union, and a so-called Norway-style arrangement – none of which gained a majority.

After last Friday’s vote in which Mrs May’s withdrawal deal was rejected for the third time, Sir Desmond, who again backed the plan, repeated his warning that without the deal the UK might never leave the EU.

He wrote on his website: “So, we are probably looking at a long delay at best, and ultimately cancelling Brexit altogether at worst.

“A long extension to Article 50 – whilst whatever parliament now fixes upon is negotiated – will, I believe, very probably lead to our remaining in the EU.”

He added: “If we end up remaining however, the trauma of our failed escape attempt will make it very difficult indeed to persuade parliament and people to give it another shot in our lifetime.”

Both Dr Lewis and Sir Chris were among 34 rebel Tories who successfully voted with labour against the PM’s deal.

The stress of the ongoing deadlock had reduced some MPs to tears, Dr Lewis told the Commons last week. He urged Speaker John Bercow to give them “protection” from having to vote repeatedly on the same thing.

Dr Lewis said: “Yesterday, I was quite shocked, when attending a meeting of colleagues, to find at least two – one male, one female – in tears at the prospect, yet again, having twice taken the difficult decision to vote against a three-line whip, of being put in the position of having to decide whether to do so or not.”

Sir Chris claimed in a later debate that leaving instead without a deal, on WTO terms, would bring “certainty”.

The two weeks until the new departure day on Friday 12th April could be used to reduce resultant “short-term problems”, he said.

Hampshire County Council is facing a six-week bill of £1m if it has to trigger a full-scale plan to deal with queues on the road network from congestion at Portsmouth caused by EU trade conditions dropping away overnight.

As reported in the A&T, it has already spent £200,000 on preparing the A31 near Winchester to hold lorries off the motorways.

If the scheme went beyond six weeks it would cost an additional £70,000 a week, according to a report to HCC’s ruling cabinet meeting on Monday. Portsmouth is the second busiest UK/EU roll-on, roll-off port after Dover.

HCC is due to receive £175,000 of Brexit funding from the government between 2018/19 and 2019/20.

The cabinet report repeated previous warnings that a no-deal Brexit would hit the local economy and reduce funding for public services, as well as threaten farmers dependent on EU subsidies.

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