EXCL David Lidington: Question of re-joining the EU will not come up in my lifetime
Pro-Remain Cabinet minister David Lidington has said the prospect of re-joining the European Union will not come up in his political lifetime.
The de facto deputy PM argued it was a “red herring” to talk about the UK’s future membership of the bloc and instead the focus should be on constructing a “close partnership” with Brussels after Brexit.
The 61-year-old former Europe minister also claimed he could not see any UK government opting to be part of President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for closer EU integration.
But the Cabinet Office minister said he does not “resile” from anything he said during the referendum campaign about the risks of leaving the European Union.
When asked, in an interview with The House magazine, whether he could see the UK re-join the European Union, he replied: “It’s not going to be in my political lifetime that those questions will come up. People went through the referendum and they accept the result.
"I also think that if you look at what President Macron is saying about the need for the eurozone to integrate more closely, I mean, that’s not something I could see the United Kingdom – under any government – wanting to be part of.
"I think it’s a red herring to talk about re-joining. The question now is how can we construct the most beneficial close partnership with the European Union that works to our interests."
During the referendum campaign, Mr Lidington warned that Brexit would be a “massive risk”. Asked if he still felt the same way, he replied: "I’m not resiling from anything I said or did in the referendum, but I’ve always said that whatever the outcome of the referendum, it was a result that everybody should accept.
"The majority view among Conservative MPs and I think the majority view in the country whichever side people voted on, is a decision has been taken.
"They now want that decision delivered and acted upon but done so in a way that maintains close relationships between ourselves and our European neighbours and which, in particular, prioritises trade and the economy and security cooperation as well.
"I think people look at this with a very pragmatic eye. I do the same.
"Clearly, I wanted the referendum to go a different way. But not only have I accepted the result but when I talk to ministers in the 27 other EU governments, they don’t question the legitimacy of the referendum.
"They say to me things like, ‘it was a very sad day, but it was a valid result, you know. It was clear, the turnout was high, we have to accept your decision, we have to get on in constructing this new relationship’.”
Mr Lidington became Cabinet Office Minister in January after Theresa May’s former deputy, Damian Green, left the Government.
He was Britain’s longest serving Europe Minister when in the Foreign Office between 2010 and 2016.