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Analysis

Which Tories might help stop destructive Brexit?

by Luke Lythgoe | 19.05.2017

If Theresa May wins the landslide polls are predicting, pro-European voices on the opposition benches will be muffled. In a Tory-dominated Parliament, one of the few brakes on a destructive Brexit could be pro-Europeans in the prime minister’s own party willing to stick their head above the parapet to challenge the craziness of it all.

We have identified a Tory “whitelist” of 15 MPs (plus one former MEP standing as a candidate*) who have spoken out against Theresa May’s hard-Brexit policies since the referendum. In a few cases, this was because they defied her whips and abstained in the Article 50 vote. Kenneth Clarke even voted against triggering Article 50.

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In other cases, they fought for Parliament to get a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal – either backing an amendment in the House of Commons to that effect or refusing to overturn a House of Lord amendment. That again meant flouting the prime minister’s will.

Pro-Europeans should support these candidates, unless – as in three cases – they are vulnerable to the Lib Dems. In this case, the Lib Dems’ dedication to a second referendum on EU membership makes them an even better pro-European vote.

InFacts' Tory whitelist

We also have a second Tory “greylist” of 31 MPs who campaigned passionately for a Remain vote before the referendum, but who have not been very vocal since.

This includes 10 pro-Remain cabinet ministers as well as a few more junior ministers. Their role limits their ability to speak out now, but they are the most likely to have the prime minister’s ear as Brexit policy is being shaped.

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Due to their relative silence since referendum, we have not backed these Tories. An electoral scare might convince these once-vocal Remainers to speak up again.

When the Lib Dems have a chance of winning, we support them. Where Labour has a chance, in Amber Rudd’s seat of Hastings and Rye and Ipswich, we back Labour. Otherwise, we’re neutral between the Greens and the Lib Dems – because these are more pro-European parties than Labour – or back the Lib Dems if the Greens are not standing.

InFacts Tory grey list

Four Tory MPs met the whitelist criteria of not voting with the government on the Article 50 bill, but have not been included in the list. Geoffrey Cox and Mike Wood were both Leavers. Wood was in poor health and the reason for Cox’s abstention is unrecorded. Roger Gale was a reluctant Remain voter who abstained on a technicality – he was chairing the bill committee. It is unclear why Peter Bottomley, also a Remainer, was absent for two votes on Article 50 – although he had voted in favour of the bill previously.

All other Tories – both Leave and Remain voters – should not be supported by pro-Europeans. Where Tories are vulnerable pro-Europeans should back the challenger, and where Tories are safe they should vote for one of the strongly pro-European parties – the Greens or Lib Dems.

There are two exceptions. Matt Warman, a Remain-voting Tory MP, is being challenged by Ukip leader Paul Nuttall in Boston and Skegness, the constituency with the highest proportion of Leave voters in the country. Another Tory candidate, Giles Watling, is also challenging Ukip’s 2015 majority in Clacton following the retirement of Douglas Carswell.

Pro-Europeans should support both. After all, the annihilation of Ukip – and Nuttall’s sad face – could be one of few silver linings for Remainers on an otherwise depressing election night.

This article has been corrected. The original stated that James Brokenshire’s constituency was Bexleyheath and Crayford. He is in fact the candidate for Old Bexley and Sidcup. We have also added Clacton to the list of seats where we think it makes sense to back a Tory, but we have changed our original recommendation of neutrality when Tories are on our grey list.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

4 Responses to “Which Tories might help stop destructive Brexit?”

  • You have Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea and Fulham, on your grey list of Tory candidates who campaigned hard for Remain but have not been very vocal since. I live in his constituency and I thought you might be interested to know that I have written to him twice since the referendum on Brexit maters and each time he has responded very curtly, towing May’s Brexit line. He is generally thought locally to be a career, rather than a conviction politician and has no doubt been delighted to have been made a minister in The Ministry of Trade. In my opinion, he has been well and truly turned.

  • I’m shocked that you want people in my constituency to vote Tory simply because candidate Anna Soubry “fought for government to agree final Brexit deal”. That really is a low bar!! She speaks pro Europe, but her actions are different – she has consistently voted agains the right of EY nationals to remain in the UK (see theyworkforyou.com) and “generally voted against UK membership of the EU”.