Article 50 Underlines the Risks of Britain Leaving the EU

22/02/2016 14:50 GMT | Updated 22/02/2017 10:12 GMT

If Britain votes to leave the European Union on 23 June, we will leave. This is a fact some leave campaigners seem unable to grasp.

In a striking display of lacking confidence in their own ability to win a first referendum, some leave campaigners seem to think that a leave vote will result in a further renegotiation and a second referendum.

This has been a course advocated by Boris Johnson, and strongly hinted at in yesterday's statement.

This has been led by 'Vote Leave', who have argued, "We do not necessarily have to use Article 50 - we may agree with the EU another path that is in both our interests."

And we know why. Vote Leave campaign director Dominic Cummings has said a second referendum "enables NO to make a NO vote seem much less risky".

So they know there is a risk if Britain leaves and want to cover this up and pretend that a leave vote means something else altogether.

This is, however, simply untrue. The Government would trigger what's known as 'Article 50' if the British people vote to leave. This would give Britain two years to negotiate an alternative relationship with the EU. And it would respect the will democratically expressed by the British people who voted for a leave vote.

But if leave campaigners do not want to listen to me on this topic, they should look at what they themselves have said over the years.

Just this weekend, leading leave campaigner Chris Grayling said, "If we vote to stay in the European Union we stay. If we vote to leave the European Union we leave." Unambiguous. Tom Pursglove today said the same.

Business for Britain, the organisation set up by Vote Leave chief Executive Matthew Elliott, said

Article 50 is the "only one defined" mechanism to leave Europe. We agree.

Even Ukip said in their last manifesto that Article 50 "is the option we prefer".

Owen Paterson has said that Article 50 is the "only legally binding mechanism" for negotiating a new relationship with Europe.

The mouthpiece for much of Vote Leave's output, and never knowingly consistent on his positions, Daniel Hannan MEP, has said that Britain would want to seek "an amicable separation" under Article 50.

His campaign partner, Douglas Carswell, has also said that a new agreement should be brokered under Article 50.

Arron Banks, head of Leave.EU, has said that those proposing "anything other than Article 50" are a "liability".

Some leave campaigners, namely Philip Davies MP and David Nuttall MP, went as far as to try to insert a clause to the EU referendum bill to ensure Article 50 was invoked within 28 days of a vote to leave.

Steve Baker, head of Conservatives for Britain, has said that Article 50 would determine "the timescale if we were to leave".

So when leave campaigners stand up and complain about Article 50, ask yourselves why they have changed their tune. It is because they do not want the very real risk of Britain leaving Europe to be the focus of the debate.

They cannot answer the questions Article 50 throws up. How would we renegotiate our relationship with the EU in just two years? What would the damage be from our losing access to trade deals with over 50 countries? Which existing model should we follow, Norway, Iceland or Peru? Can they guarantee that jobs, prices and investment would not be put at risk?

Article 50 underlines the reality of leaving and the implications for Britain's financial security. It's no wonder leave campaigners want to pretend it doesn't exist.