George Osborne has said he will be fully involved in the “fights” over Brexit as he warned the country faced a “bitter” divorce from the EU.
The former chancellor told the Commons today he would be voting in favour of triggering Article 50, despite having campaigned vigorously for a remain vote.
But he indicated despite having recently taken on two jobs outside parliament, including with investment giant BlackRock, he would not be retreating from politics and would continue to argue for a so-called soft Brexit from the backbenhes.
Osborne said it was clear Theresa May’s government was “not prioritising the economy” in its Brexit negotiation plan and instead was focused on cutting immigration.
“There was a mandate to leave the EU. But that was the only question that was asked of the British people,” he told MPs as they debated the bill that will allow the prime minister to invoke Article 50.
“I don’t think we can assume there were set of answer form the British public to the questions we now face as a parliament. Indeed those questions are now entrusted to us as we approach these negotiations.”
Osborne said there were going to be “very lively debates” about free trade, the single market and immigration. “I will be in those fights int he couple of years ahead,” he said.
The former chancellor, who was fired by May, was one of the leading voices for a remain vote. “I lost the case. I made it with passion. I sacrificed my position in government for it,” he said.
In what will be seen as a jab at Donald Trump and the president’s British supporters, he added: “I made those arguments and it saddens me and Britain and Brexit is placed in the same group as other isolationist and nativist movements around the world.”
Explaining his decision to vote for Brexit today, Osborne said the referendum result had to be respected.
“We have given the modern world a version of democracy that has spread far beyond our shores,” he said.
“And therefore to vote against the majority verdict of the largest democratic exercise in British history I think would risk putting Parliament against people, I think it would provoke a deep constitutional crisis in our country, I think it would alienate people who already feel they are alienated, and I am not prepared to do that.”
Osborne, who reportedly warned David Cameron not to hold the referendum in the first place, added: “So I will be voting for the bill tonight.”