The Express: Friday marks a victory for democracy, says John Penrose – Brexit ‘a moment of change’

WHEN Britain finally leaves the EU on Friday – almost four years after the 2016 referendum – it will be a victory for one of the world’s oldest democracies, Tory MP John Penrose has said.

Mr Penrose, MP for Weston-super-Mare, who served as Minister of State for Northern Ireland from 2018-2019, also outlined his vision for “global Britain” – including the possibility of British overseas territories including Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands – being fully incorporated into UK in the future. Mr Penrose told “I don’t think anybody would have predicted five years ago or longer that this was where we were going to end up. “But we are a democracy and we are one of the longest established democracies on the planet and if we vote for something we have to get on and do it.

“And that is for me, as a democrat, the crucial thing.

“That was the verdict, people just said ‘enough already, why have we not gone already, get on with it, get Brexit done’.

“From the point of view of our democracy, that will be really important, and Friday will be a big moment.”

Mr Penrose campaigned for Remain prior to the 2016 vote, but stressed: “I was one of the first to come out within days and say the country has voted, we must honour this.

“And in fact I then became an officer of the ERG in Parliament, because the ERG said ‘we need to have people who voted Remain but who are democrats first and foremost’.

“I was one of the officers of the ERG for a while.

“On Saturday morning I shall be at a Brexit brunch which a collection of like-minded people in my constituency marking an important moment and the next step in Britain’s journey.”

Looking ahead, Mr Penrose – who has floated the idea of Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and other British overseas territories electing their own MPs to Parliament – said it was already clear Britain’s role in the world would alter after Friday, as well as emphasising the opportunities such a change would bring.

He explained: “Whether you individually voted for or against Brexit in this referendum, this is a moment of change for our country and I think it is pretty clear that we have got to be a global country.

“And we are going to be a global country in a different way when we are out of the EU than when we are in it.

“But we should not stop being a global country just because of that change.

“We’ve got to therefore think of new ways to make that happen and to push for that agenda.”

Mr Penrose was also diplomatic about how best to mark Brexit on Friday.

He said: “I think that it is important for us to heal some of the divisions which have undoubtedly been characterised by the Brexit debate.

“I just think that all of us need to be quite sober and quite balanced about this.

“This is a moment of change, and there are upsides and downsides but we need to make sure that the whole country can come together afterwards.

“So let’s not deepen the divisions, let’s bring people together if we can.”

Stressing the importance of a “fresh start” and “healing”, he added: “It won’t be a normal business day because it will it is an important moment and the country voted for it and then again in the general election.”

As for his own political future, Mr Penrose added: “That’s a decision for people on a much higher pay grade than me so we’ll wait and see.

“I’m always proud to be the MP for Weston-super-mare first and foremost.

“If they want me to contribute in other ways I am always happy to answer the call but at the moment – let’s just get Brexit done on Friday.”