Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Push Your 'Brexit Day' Plan to a Vote, Tory Rebels Warn May

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Push Your 'Brexit Day' Plan to a Vote, Tory Rebels Warn May

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

THERESA MAY was today urged to withdraw her attempt to fix the Brexit date in law as the number of potential Conservative rebels rose to 21.

The chances of a Commons defeat on the Prime Minister's own amendment increased during a backlash against alleged "heavy-handed" attempts to put pressure on backbenchers.

At least two ministers have told colleagues they might resign next autumn if Mrs May comes back from Brussels with an exit agreement they deem to be bad for Britain.

Senior ministers including Michael Gove rushed to distance themselves and the Government from a front-page article in the Daily Telegraph that carried photographs of 15 MPs under the headline: "The Brexit Mutineers."

The photos included Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, ex-ministers such as Oliver Heald and Stephen Hammond, and other prominent backers of a "soft" Brexit. Brexit minister Steve Baker said he had "respect" for colleagues who were singled out, saying they had put forward "sincere suggestions to improve the Bill which we are working through and I respect them for that".

Mr Gove tweeted: "Steve is completely right," while justice minister Dominic Raab said: "I agree. Colleagues today were reasonable and constructive."

But the incident appeared to have hardened the resolve of some rebels. Nicky Morgan told the Standard she would vote against fixing Brexit Day in law if it was pushed to a division: "Concern among Conservative MPs about setting an end date is rising. There are enough of us to make this very tough for the Government. But we are hoping they will not push this to a vote."

She called the Telegraph front page a "blatant piece of bullying".

Former Tory cabinet minister Owen Paterson, a Brexit backer, told the BBC's Today programme: "The number-one priority for the Government is delivering Brexit. …

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