Senior Tory MPs threaten to quit party if Theresa May adopts no-deal Brexit stance

Written by Liz Bates on 19 December 2018 in News

Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry join former minister Nick Boles in threatening to quit the Conservative whip under a no deal scenario

Sarah Wollaston - PA

Two influential Conservative backbenchers have joined former minister Nick Boles in declaring they will quit the party if Theresa May backs a no-deal Brexit.

Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry last night announced that they would resign the Tory whip, further weakening Theresa May's position in the House of Commons.

The threats came as no-deal preparations were dramatically ramped up, with the Treasury pledging an extra £2bn to ready departments and 3,500 army personnel being put on standby.

The move came as the Prime Minister struggles to persuade MPs to back the Brexit deal she has struck with Brussels, and barely three months before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March next year. Critics say May has delayed a meaningful vote on her deal so that MPs will have a limited choice between that and a no-deal Brexit.

Wollaston, who is chair of the Health Select Committee, tweeted: “I could not remain a member of the Conservative Party if PM changed her main policy objective to delivering No Deal and No Transition.

"No responsible government could knowingly aim to inflict that kind of harm on the people & especially when we are so woefully unprepared."

Former minister and outspoken Remainer Anna Soubry later echoed the stance, telling Channel 4 News: “I'm not going to hang around in the Conservative Party by keeping on with the whip if we embark upon this madness and I know I’m not alone in that.”

Boles was the first Tory to threaten to leave over the party’s Brexit policy when he tweeted yesterday: "The Cabinet spent this morning discussing preparations for ‘no deal’ Brexit.

“I accept that it is prudent for the government to get ready for all eventualities. But I owe my constituents and my colleagues total clarity about my position.

"If at any point between now and 29 March the government were to announce that ‘no deal’ Brexit had become its policy, I would immediately resign the Conservative whip and vote in any way necessary to stop it from happening."

His comments also appeared to suggest that he would be prepared to side against the Government in a no confidence vote.

If it were passed, May would be forced from office and the Conservatives and Labour would have two weeks to come up with an alternative administration or face a general election.

However, Labour has said it will not table a no-confidence motion until it is sure it would be passed by the Commons, with Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey confirming that will not be until after the vote on the Brexit deal in January.

Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister herself on Monday, but the Government refused to make Parliamentary time available for it to be debated.

Meanwhile a group of opposition leaders have joined forces to table their own motion of no confidence in the Government – challenging Corbyn to back it.

The SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Greens made the move yesterday, however the Commons Speaker John Bercow has said it is unlikely that there will be time allowed for it unless Labour also supports it.

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