Saturday 4 February 2017 9:15 am

Ken Clarke: It's absurd to say the 16m who voted to remain in the EU should no longer have a voice in Parliament

Ken Clarke has spoken out against those who say MPs voting against the government's Brexit bill was against the will of the people and undemocratic.

"It's absurd to say that the 16m who voted should no longer have a voice in Parliament and lose their right to be represented," he said in an interview with the Times.

Some 16m voted to remain in the European Union, while over 17m voted to leave in a 52:48 split on 23 June.

"I hope I don't live ever to see another referendum. I just think it's silly to have such a complex issue put to one day's Yes-No vote," he said.

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Clarke didn't though, criticise the Remainers among MPs who opted to trigger Article 50 after this week's debate. "When I came into the Commons, like most new MPs, I was ambitious. Would I have voted against the party on a key vote? I tell myself I would, but it is easier said than done."

The well-known Europhile and former chancellor became the sole Conservative to vote against the government on this week's Brexit bill, after delivering an impassioned speech during the Commons debate on triggering Article 50. Some 498 MPs backed the legislation, compared to 114 who voted against it.

He said he would vote with his conscience and that the Conservative Party's stance on Europe would even surprise Enoch Powell, in a nod to his infamous "rivers of blood" speech delivered to a Conservative Association meeting in Birmingham back in 1968.

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"We are combining withdrawal from the single market and the customs union with this great new globalised future, which offers tremendous opportunities for us," Clarke said during the Commons debate. "Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and you emerge in a wonderland where suddenly countries around the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that previously we had never been able to achieve as part of the European Union."

In today's interview, he said: "I don't think the Tory party knows where it is going now. We have taken up all these positions since 23 June but they don't hang together. The bit that worries me is the anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant bit. The overwhelming majority of British people are not xenophobic or racist, but there are more around than there used to be."