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EXCL Tory chief whip Julian Smith angers MPs by telling them: 'Fishermen don't vote Labour'

2 min read

Tory chief whip Julian Smith sparked a furious row with Conservative MPs after telling them to accept Theresa May's Brexit transition deal because "it's not like the fishermen are going to vote Labour".


PoliticsHome has been told that Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray "ripped him a new one" after he made the remark at what was supposed to be a clear-the-air meeting yesterday afternoon.

Tory insiders said it showed a complete lack of understanding of the fact that in Scotland it is the SNP, not Labour, who are the Government's main opponents.

Some Conservative MPs have already reacted angrily to the terms of the transition deal, which will still give the EU a major say over British fishing waters until nearly two years after Brexit.

Tory backbencher Douglas Ross said it would be "easier to get someone to drink a pint of sick than try to sell this as a success".

Others have threatened to vote down the whole Brexit deal unless there are cast-iron guarantees that the UK will regain control of its fishing waters once the transition deal ends on 31 December, 2020.

Mr Smith - who is responsible for Tory discipline - met with more than a dozen Tory backbenchers yesterday in a bid to allay their concerns.

But one source said: "He alienated everyone there - including Sheryll Murray from Cornwall who ripped him a new one - by saying "it's not like the fishermen are going to vote Labour".

"That completely misunderstands what this is about and who our chief opponents even are. He really managed to harden the resolve of all those present.

"Worse still is that he goes around telling everyone he's Scottish because he was born in Stirling. Knowing that the SNP - not Labour - is the major force in Scotland is pretty basic."

Theresa May will attempt to reassure the angry MPs when she meets them later today.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that Tory MP and leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, along with other MPs including Craig MacKinlay and Sheryll Murray, will board a fishing boat on Wednesday and throw a box of haddock, skate and bass into the Thames in protest at the agreement.

A spokesman for the European Research Group, which Mr Rees-Mogg chairs, said: "If Brexit means Brexit, we have to take control of our fish."

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