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Analysis

Tory mutineers haven’t been cowed – far from it

by Hugo Dixon | 18.01.2018

Not only did Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke put the government on notice this week that they will keep fighting its destructive Brexit. Justine Greening, who quit the Cabinet last week, has joined their ranks.

Perhaps the starkest comment was from Soubry in Tuesday’s debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Commons. She said: “All options need to be placed back on the table – and I mean all options. That includes the ability of the people – it must be the people – of this country to determine the future of Brexit. It must remain with them, and they must drive it.”

The former Tory minister repeated virtually the same language on the BBC’s Daily Politics. So it wasn’t a slip of the tongue. Of course, her precise intent wasn’t clear. But there was more than a hint that she thinks voters should have the final say on Theresa May’s Brexit deal if that’s what they want.

Clarke kept up the pressure in the Commons yesterday, saying: “The more we can do to make sure we have an informed debate on whatever trade, investment and other deal is proposed with the EU, the more likely we are to uphold the duty we all have in this House to apply our judgement of the national interest, to think a little of the future as well as the short-term politics and to decide whether or not this vital consent of Parliament is to be given.”

This provoked Greening to remark: “I represent a very young constituency in London. The bottom line, looking ahead, is that, if Brexit does not work for young people in our country, in the end it will not be sustainable and when they take their place here [as MPs], they will seek to improve or undo what we have done and make it work for them. So we absolutely have a duty in this House to look ahead and ensure that whatever we get is sustainable and works for them.”

The former education secretary’s warning that she is prepared to rebel is highly significant. She is a northern working class lesbian who represents the modernising wing of the Tory party.

Finally, Grieve, who led the so-called mutineers in defeating the government just before Christmas, set out elegantly his continuing concern that the prime minister’s Brexit approach was so vague that it would be hard to scrutinise it. He asked: “At what point can the House and, indeed, the public have a proper understanding of what the Government have succeeded in negotiating? At the moment, it reminds me very much of the company set up at the time of the South Sea bubble in the early 18th century that said: ‘A company to be of great and inestimable value to its shareholders. Nobody to know what it is.’”

If May hoped the Tory rebels had shut up shop after their pre-Christmas victory, she is going to be in for a nasty surprise.

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    Edited by Luke Lythgoe

    4 Responses to “Tory mutineers haven’t been cowed – far from it”

    • Yet despite their brave and commendable words, the so-called Tory rebels backed down when it came to the votes in the Commons. At least I assume they did, as the Government got healthy majorities for all of the relevant amendments. Very dissapointing.
      There is a clear majority of MPs who know that the Government is embarked on the wrong course in its quest for a Hard Brexit, outside the Single Market and Customs Union. The Pro Europe MPs really must get their act together and put party loyalties to one side, however uncomfortable that may be. They are not going to get many more opportunities.

    • On behalf of all my friends and family, we applaud the efforts of all Tory rebels who are putting their European and patriotic values before loyalty to a party which has somehow morphed into a lunatic Tory/Ukip alliance headed by the deranged and dangerous Fox, Grayling, Gove, Leadsom and Johnson.

    • Anna Soubry strikes me as a woman with the guts to get something done. There are others, but as the first commentator pointed out, the clock is ticking….

    • Rees-Mogg, it is beyond laughable! The proEuros should consider a stalking horse if the 48 required letters are not forthcoming very soon. Certainly the ProEuros need to step up to the plate. My own MP is a fine example of someone who has kept her own interests to the fore, and is rewarded with a ministerial appointment. There is a prompt need to dismiss May and hopefully pull together a credible group of MPs who will support Anna Soubry / Justine Greening for a new premiership together with other notable remainers. Perhaps closet remainers then would feel safer in making their true views known?
      How have we ended up with such a dross bunch of representatives – most without a clue as to how UKplc funds matters.