Ken Clarke has clashed with pro-Brexit audience members on Question Time, defending MPs’ right to caution against leaving the EU and the Single Market.
The former chancellor, who is among the most vocal critics of Brexit in the Tory Party, defended his stance after an audience member said MPs had to “represent the people” and should “clear off” if they did not implement Brexit.
Clarke said: “Fifty eight percent of my constituents voted to remain and you want me to tell them to clear off? I don’t think I should do that.
“I’m trying to represent to the best of my abilities all of my constituents, always have. I use my judgement as to what is in the national interest. Then I go back and I’m accountable for it and if they don’t like it, they can throw me out.”
“That’s called parliamentary democracy. That’s how we’ve been governed for years.”
Clarke added he opposed the use of referendums but accepted he had “lost that argument” as well the case for remaining in the EU.
As the audience member shook his head, Clarke said the Brexit referendum was “a question with 100 difficult questions wrapped up in it”.
On the issue of leaving the Single Market as well as the EU, Clarke said: “You cannot leave a market of 500 million people without making yourself poorer than you otherwise would be.”
He said Hartlepool, where the edition of Question Time was broadcast from, “needs new investment, modern jobs”.
“This country has always been one of the most business-friendly places to invest in,” he said. “Plenty of places like Hartlepool have not shared in that. That’s why we had a massive protest vote.
“But actually making it less attractive for investment is not going to do much good for your children, my children, the next generation.”
Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis then spoke but another audience member piped up to heckle Clarke.
“We voted for Brexit and the reason it’s going to be hard and take so long is the likes of Ken Clarke have never done a hard day’s work in their life. He needs to pull his socks up and get on with it,” he shouted.
After this, the man appeared to argue with someone else in the audience. Clarke went to respond but host David Dimbleby prevented him and handed over to another guest on the panel.
This week’s Question Time came from Hartlepool. Clarke was joined on the panel by Varoufakis, Labour’s Angela Rayner, Ukip’s Lisa Duffy and media baron Conrad Black.