MPs told to ‘trust the people’ as critics blast fairytale Brexit

Ken Clarke speaks in the House of Commons during the second reading debate on the EU. Picture: PA
Ken Clarke speaks in the House of Commons during the second reading debate on the EU. Picture: PA
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Debate in parliament on a bill that will trigger Brexit has begun with the government being accused of Alice in Wonderland economics by one of its own MPs.

Ken Clarke, the veteran former chancellor, said he would vote with the SNP for the first time in his career in a bid to block the start of a exit talks with the EU.

Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and emerge in a wonderland where countries are queuing up to give us trading advantages

Ken Clarke

Earlier, Brexit Secretary David Davis launched five days of debate by calling on MPs to “trust the people” and pass legislation triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

• READ MORE: ‘No evidence’ UK will gain from post-Brexit trading

An SNP amendment to block the two-clause bill will be voted on by MPs tonight. Labour shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer appealed to dozens of his party’s MPs expected to rebel against a three-line whip ordering them to vote for the bill.

Mr Starmer acknowledged that the bill was “very difficult” for Labour, which has seen two resignations from its front bench Jeremy Corbyn’s order to his MPs to vote for the Brexit trigger.

The shadow Brexit secretary insisted his party would not be giving Theresa May a “blank cheque” and would amend the bill to protect workers’ rights and demand tariff and barrier free access to the European single market.

And Mr Starmer called on the government to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit.

“When I was imploring people up and down the country to vote in the referendum and to vote to remain, I told them that their vote really mattered and that a decision was going to be made,” Mr Starmer said, adding the “we in the Labour party are, above all, democrats.”

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To applause from fellow Europhile MPs, Mr Clarke said: “Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and you emerge in a wonderland where suddenly countries around the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages... Nice men like President Trump and President Erdogan are just impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access.”

He added: “No doubt there is somewhere a Hatter holding a tea party with a dormouse.”

The SNP’s Europe spokesman, Stephen Gethins accused ministers of “scrabbling around for the odd detail” for its white paper on Brexit, which is expected this week before the final three days of debate next week.

Urging MPs to vote against the Brexit trigger, Mr Gethins said leaving the European single market against the will of Scottish voters and the Scottish Government would be a “backward and damaging step, and an act of constitutional and economic sabotage”.