Saturday, 25 November, 2017

'Mutineers' hit back as tensions rise over Brexit bill

EU Withdrawal Bill Could Theresa May face opposition from her party EU Withdrawal Bill Could Theresa May face opposition from her party
Melinda Barton | 15 November, 2017, 15:37

In an imposing front page splash on Wednesday, the pro-Remain Telegraph charged 15 Tory MPs, including Soubry, with mutiny over their alleged plans to vote with Labour to block Prime Minister Theresa May's plans to enshrine the date of Brexit into law. However many MPs have criticised the newspaper for labelling them "Brexit mutineers".

"The Brexit mutineers", the paper writes, "are understood to have had a "stormy" meeting with the whips earlier this week".

The group of MPs includes former chancellor Ken Clarke, former education secretary Nicky Morgan, former justice secretary Dominic Grieve, and chair of the liaison committee Sarah Wollaston.

Another, Anna Soubry, said it was a "blatant piece of bullying" and insisted none of those named wanted to delay or thwart Brexit. "But we want a proper Brexit, one that works for jobs and industry, that's what we're trying to get". He tweeted: "That tone says more about them than us".

But the bullies will not succeed, of course.

Brexit minister Steve Baker, who spoke for the government in Tuesday's debate, tweeted: "I regret any media attempts to divide our party".

The MPs later won support from Labour colleagues fighting against a hard Brexit with Chuka Umuna, the former shadow cabinet minister, saying the front page was "an ideological witch-hunt to bully Tory MPs to go against their instincts to do what they think best for our country".

"My parliamentary colleagues have honest suggestions to improve the bill which we are working through and I respect them for that".

But she later told the House of Commons that she regarded the description as something to be proud of, while several other MPs pictured on the front page suggested the stunt had backfired.

He said: "I have to say I find this amendment by the government so very unusual, because it seems to me to fetter the government, to add nothing to the strength of the government's negotiating position, and in fact potentially to create a very great problem that could be brought back to visit on us at a later stage".

Last night the Government survived a number of crunch votes on amendments to the bill put forward by opposition politicians.