A Tory cabinet minister has launched a scathing attack on hardline Brexiteer faction, the ERG, after claiming they “drank champagne to celebrate” PM May’s deal being defeated – telling them to defect to Nigel Farage’s new party.
In an interview for The House magazine, business minister Richard Harrington accused the European Research Group, headed by prominent backbench Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg of “treachery,” claiming that in his “view they’re not Conservatives.”
Harrington, who voted ‘remain’ in the 2016 EU referendum, and has himself intimated that he would be willing to quit May’s cabinet if no-deal Brexit became government policy urged ERG members to join a party that was more in line with their vision for the UK.
“I read that Nigel Farage is setting up a new party called ‘Brexit’ and if I were them I’d be looking at that, because that seems to reflect their views more than the Conservative Party does,” Harrington suggested.
The government minister was giving his views in the aftermath of Theresa May losing a vote (303-258) on her Brexit deal, that sought to give her more time to negotiate with the EU, changes to the contentious Irish backstop. The ERG abstained on the vote, with its deputy chairman, Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister claiming they couldn’t back something that took “no-deal off the table.”
May’s defeat last night, albeit on a vote that was legally non-binding, has triggered a Tory civil war with cracks appearing within the PM’s cabinet, specifically on the issue of taking the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal – off the table.
Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, has told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Britain is prepared to leave the bloc without a divorce deal, insisting the only way to avoid such a scenario is for the UK parliament to vote for May’s Brexit agreement.
However, foreign office and international development minister, Alistair Burt, has lambasted such suggestions, taking to social media to claim: “We are not leaving without a deal,” in a reply to former Brexit Secretary David Davis.
The PM’s defeat on Thursday night was her 11th on Brexit in 14 months. It further adds to the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and arguably undermines her pledge to EU leaders that she would be able to gain a good majority of MPs to support her deal.
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