EU treason petition councillor suspended by local Conservative party
Published 17/10/2016 | 10:51
A Conservative councillor has been suspended by his local party after starting a petition to make opposing Brexit into an act of treason.
Guildford councillor Christian Holliday's petition for a change in the law to make supporting UK membership of the European Union a crime attracted more than 1,250 signatures within four days of being launched on the parliamentary website.
But it was denounced as "medieval" by Liberal Democrats and dismissed as "completely mad" by the Conservative leader of Guildford Borough Council in Surrey, Paul Spooner.
Mr Spooner announced that Mr Holliday's membership of the Conservative group had been suspended until an upcoming meeting in November.
Mr Holliday's petition calls for the Treason Felony Act to be amended to make it a crime to support EU membership or to conspire with foreign powers to make the UK or any part of it become a member of the 28-nation bloc.
Explaining his initiative, the Guildford councillor said: "It is becoming clear that many politicians and others are unwilling to accept the democratic decision of the British people to leave the EU. Brexit must not be put at risk in the years and decades ahead."
Treason felonies are less serious than high treason, but still carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The Act states that it is a treason felony to "compass, imagine, invent, devise, or intend" to deprive the Queen of her crown, levy war against the Queen, or "move or stir" any foreigner to invade the United Kingdom or any other country belonging to the Queen.
Mr Holliday's petition got a hostile response from some social media users on Twitter, with one describing it as "more than a little undemocratic" and another saying: "You don't seem to quite have the hang of this democracy thing."
And local Tories distanced themselves from it, releasing a statement to say: "Guildford Conservative Association is aware of the petition. This does not represent the views of the local Conservative Association and we will consider the matter in due course."
Shortly before announcing the suspension, Mr Spooner described the petition as "illogical nonsense" and a "personal view" of Mr Holliday, who was a Vote Leave co-ordinator for Guildford.
Asked about the petition, Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokeswoman said: "Different people will choose their words differently.
"The Prime Minister has been very clear that the British people have made their decision and we should respect the will of the British people. That's how she would put it."
But Liberal Democrats said that Mrs May should make clear she does not approve of the petition.
"It's bad enough that a Conservative councillor is trying to shut down any democratic debate about Brexit as treason, but it's downright frightening that the Prime Minister has so far refused to condemn him," said Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Tom Brake.
"People did not vote to turn back the clock to medieval Britain. The Lib Dems will be the real voice of opposition and fight against a reckless Brexit that takes us out of the single market."
The petitions is so far well short of the 10,000 required for the Government to respond or the 100,000 needed for the proposal to be debated in Parliament.
Pressed later on the PM's view of Mr Holliday's proposals, Mrs May's spokeswoman said: "They are not views that the Prime Minister would share or is putting forward herself.
"The Prime Minister believes we should respect people's differing views. But there was a decision and now we must get on with delivering it."