Brushing off Brexit: Harpenden MP Peter Lilley criticised for comments

Daisy Cooper

Daisy Cooper - Credit: Archant

Harpenden MP Peter Lilley has been accused of trying to make Brexit “sound too simple” by local pro-EU campaigners.

In a recent article for the Conservatives, the Eurosceptic said: “We should aim to complete Brexit as rapidly as possible.”

He added that while “imaginary obstacles” might be devised to “keep us in Hotel Europe indefinitely, there is no reason Brexit should be interminable. In fact, it need not take even the two years arbitrarily specified in Article 50.

“Joining the EC was far more complex than leaving: we had to introduce Value Added Tax, transform our farm support, implement all existing EU laws, replace Commonwealth preference by EU tariffs and much else. That took barely two years.”

Peter recommended that “the first decision we should take is to convert all EU legislation and regulations into UK law,” adding that while it seemed “paradoxical” that Eurosceptics should propose this, it would help provide business with certainty.

Also, it would “ease the parliamentary passage of leaving legislation by depriving die-hard Remainers of excuses to oppose it.

“Then we should reassure EU residents already working here that they will be allowed to remain. That will end uncertainty for them and their employers.

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“The more such decisions we take, the clearer it will be to our partners what scope there is for negotiation.”

Peter said that there were “only two realistic outcomes for the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU”. Either there was an agreement to trade freely with each other without tariffs, or “the UK and the EU27 apply to imports from each other the World Trade Organisation tariffs which we currently apply to the EU’s biggest trading partners – USA, Russia and China.”

But his comments have been slammed after a recent pro-EU campaign meeting at St Peter’s Church in St Albans, which was attended by over 60 people.

Members of the St Albans Stronger Together group met with Sir Vince Cable and St Albans Lib Dem candidate Daisy Cooper.

The pair called upon voters across the political spectrum “to unite to provide opposition to the right-wing Brexit government”.

Afterwards, Niall Deacon, a member of the campaign group, told the Herts Advertiser: “Peter Lilley makes hard Brexit sound simple by ignoring the difficult bits.

“How will he deal with the need for a hard border in Ireland, cutting families in half and endangering the peace process; making our exporters comply with both EU and UK regulations once our systems diverge or the loss of half a trillion pounds of Euro denominated business to the City?”

Daisy said: “It was a helpful meeting because there is a very strong sense that it was a close vote, and while Theresa May is pushing for the hard Brexit option, 48.1 per cent of people didn’t vote for that.”

In St Albans, there was strong support to remain in the European Union despite local MPs campaigning to leave.

Daisy added: “A lot of people who voted for Brexit didn’t know what we were committing to, to leave the single market. The Lib Dems are pushing for a referendum on the final deal, so the British public have a chance to say whether or not they are happy with the final deal the government agrees for us.”