‘WE will absolutely deliver on our promises and won’t let you down.’
That’s the message being sent by MPs to thousands of residents across the Portsmouth area after they voted for Britain axing ties with the European Union.
Hampshire Brexit backers Penny Mordaunt and Suella Fernandes have sought to reassure voters that everything is being done to broker an exit deal with the EU.
It comes amid escalating tension over Britain’s future following Thursday’s historic in-out referendum, which saw almost every area in Hampshire voting to leave the EU.
And as leading Brexit figures have back-tracked on key referendum promises such as NHS funding, pro-Remain civic leaders in Portsmouth have launched a stinging attack, branding the Leave campaign as ‘shambolic’.
Defending the Brexit effort, Fareham MP Suella Fernandes said: ‘I salute the courage and principles of those who backed us. I am heartened that people believe so strongly and passionately about Britain.
‘We will deliver on our promises and won’t let these people down.
‘But it is important that we have a period of reflection.
‘There’s no urgency and deadline – this is the whole advantage of a referendum.
‘We are now able to take our time, reflect and leave in a controlled manner rather than leaving in the midst of crisis.’
Portsmouth North MP and armed forces minister, Penny Mordaunt agreed that the process of leaving Europe should not be rushed.
She said a plan needed to be drawn up before the nation’s future prime minister invokes the Article 50 legislation which will officially launch a two-year period to formalise Britain’s departure from the EU.
Ms Mordaunt added: ‘There have been many attempts to undermine the result of this important vote.
‘Whatever side of the argument we were on, the referendum result must be honoured.
‘It is really important that Article 50 is not triggered too soon – to do so would weaken our position as it starts the clock ticking. Better to have informal talks to reach a position, then the start formal process.’
This week has already seen Brexit campaigners fall back on a promise to boost NHS spending by £350m a week if the UK voted to leave the EU.
Speaking of campaign pledges, Ms Mordaunt argued: ‘I stand by these.
‘The proposal for the NHS was to spend an additional £100m a week.
‘It is for the government of the day to produce a budget for the country but given that mandate the people have given I hope the government will listen to what they have voted for. Us leaving will give us a £10bn dividend and I think extra funding on health and reducing VAT on fuel would be popular. I will push for both these things.
‘It was Vote Leave’s position, as was the government’s, that we would in the future maintain funding to regions and farming, and I would expect the government to set this out formally in due course.’
But Portsmouth Lib Dem group leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who supported efforts to keep Britain in Europe, says the nation has been lied to.
He said the whole campaign had been a ‘schoolboy game’ against David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
‘It’s a total shambles,’ he said. ‘It’s quite clear that Boris doesn’t believe in this, and that this is just a schoolboy game against his schoolboy enemy David Cameron.
‘But it doesn’t matter, this is how people have voted.
‘Yet there is no strategy at all.
‘Different people in the Leave campaign have said different things.
‘Some have said, it’s to stop immigration, and that means we get to leave the single market. Others say, no, we want to stay in the single market.
‘Some have said, £350m shouldn’t be going to Brussels each week.
‘Yet since the referendum, we’re being told that figure is nothing like that at all.
‘It just shows, we have been lied to, that people across the country were lied to.’