The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their decision will be respected.
Holding a referendum on our membership of the European Union was a clear manifesto pledge by the Conservative Party at the last General Election. As such, the Prime Minister and the Government were duty bound to hold it.
The EU Referendum Act received Royal Assent in December 2015. The Act was scrutinised and debated in Parliament during its passage and agreed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Act set out the terms under which the referendum would take place, including provisions for setting the date, franchise and the question that would appear on the ballot paper. The Act did not set a threshold for the result or for minimum turnout. Therefore assertions about the size of the majority and distribution of votes are not relevant. This was a national referendum – one person, one vote. It was one of the biggest democratic exercises in British history with over 33 million people having their say and the view of the country as a whole will prevail. There will not be a second ballot. There were several months of public debate on the matter, the result of which was that the country voted for the United Kingdom to leave the EU.
Assertions about misleading claims made during the referendum are also irrelevant. It was known that both sides of the debate were making claims that were exaggerated and my stance was always that to remain in the EU was as much of a risk as leaving might be.
Calls for a general election are unrealistic. Our style of government is such that the leader of the Party with the largest number of Members of Parliament is asked to form a Government. We do not elect a Prime Minister as in a presidential system. If the Prime Minister steps down it does not follow that there must be a general election and with the introduction of legislation for fixed term Parliaments, this Parliament will continue until 2020.
I appreciate that those who voted ‘remain’ will be disappointed and concerned by the result. But Brexit does not mean that we will stop working with and cooperating with our European neighbours. The creation of a new EU unit in Whitehall - which will bring together officials and policy expertise from across the Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the Foreign Office and the Business/Industry Department - will advise on transitional issues and objectively explore options for our future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world from outside the EU. I believe that we should listen to the views of remain voters as well as leave voters and I am confident that our new Prime Minister, Theresa May, will do exactly that.
For Britons living in European countries and European citizens living here, there will be no immediate changes in their circumstances. There will also be no initial change in the way Britons can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold.
I voted to leave because I want to restore control of our laws and lives to our Parliament. This is a unique opportunity for our country to begin a new chapter and I intend to play my part to ensure it is a success and that we continue to prosper as a nation - continue to be Great Britain.