‘Total and utter nonsense’ - MP Shailesh Vara slams report he is considering resigning as minister over Brexit

Shailesh Vara
Shailesh Vara
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MP Shailesh Vara has slammed a report in a national newspaper which claimed he was considering resigning as a minister over Brexit.

The Conservative MP for North West Cambridgeshire, whose constituency covers a large part of Peterborough, described the article in the Daily Telegraph as “total and utter nonsense.”

The paper had suggested Mr Vara, a minister in the Northern Ireland Office, had been having talks with an anti-Brexit campaign group called Best for Britain that wants him and other ministers to back a second EU referendum.

But the city MP, who backed Remain in the EU referendum, said he would actually support Leave if a second referendum was called.

In a statement released this morning, Mr Vara said: “Following the article in today’s Daily Telegraph, I would like to make it absolutely clear that I have not been in conversation with Best for Britain or any other organisation or individual as regards resigning from the Northern Ireland Office over the Government’s position on Brexit.

“The suggestion is total and utter nonsense. Prior to being made a minister in January of this year, my record of speaking in the House of Commons makes my robust views supporting Brexit very clear.

“Since the referendum I have been consistent in my view that Parliament should respect the democratic decision taken by the British people.

“That means leaving the EU which includes the Single Market and the Customs Union. In fact, if there were a referendum now, I would campaign and vote to leave the EU.”

The Daily Telegraph report followed yesterday’s resignation of justice minister Phillip Lee due to the Government’s Brexit policy.

MPs yesterday and today are voting on a series of amendments from the House of Lords on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The main purposes of the bill are to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK, and to transfer existing EU law into UK law so the same rules and regulations apply on the day after Brexit.

Amendments yesterday included making any date to leave the EU subject to parliamentary approval, limiting the scope of ministers to amend retained EU law under secondary legislation, and to allow for MPs to have a “meaningful vote” on the final deal.

The Government has so far defeated the amendments, with more to come today.

Mr Vara yesterday backed the Government on all of the amendments put forward, and his office confirmed he will continue to do so today.

MP for Peterborough Fiona Onasanya supported the amendments.

Speaking before voting began, the Labour MP said: “I have been looking at the legislation quite carefully. Labour’s priority is to respect the outcome of the referendum and ensure we get a deal that protects jobs and the economy.

“We believe that the Tories have been far too rigid in their approach and this is diminishing Britain’s chances of achieving a positive outcome. We will continue to argue that protecting people’s livelihoods should be a priority, not ideology.”

Nearly 61 per cent of Peterborough voted to Leave the EU.