Former Defence Secretary Michael Fallon says sacking Tory rebels sent 'wrong message' to Remain voters
Boris Johnson's decision to sack 21 Tory rebels for backing moves to block a no-deal Brexit sent the "wrong message" to millions of Remain voters, according to Michael Fallon.
The former Defence Secretary urged the Prime Minister to offer the MPs - who included two former Chancellors and Winston Churchill's grandson - the opportunity to appeal their expulsion.
Mr Fallon, who backed Mr Johnson during his Tory leadership bid, said the five million Conservatives who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum could be pushed towards the Liberal Democrats and SNP unless the Government softened its stance.
Speaking to the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Fallon said he understood the decision taken by the Prime Minister but hoped the rebels would be given the opportunity to "state their case".
"If it is a matter of confidence then you have to expect colleagues to support it. You know, it is logical and it is a proper process," he said.
"But I would hope there would be some kind of appeal mechanism that they can find now, so they get a chance to state their case."
He added: "But I also worry that it sends the wrong case to Remainers, particularly in my party.
"I think by definition, some five million Conservatives must have voted Remain, and I think we have to be very careful not to drive them in to Remainer parties, like the Liberal Democrats in England or the Scottish Nationalists in Scotland."
His comments follow pleas from senior Cabinet members, including Chancellor Sajid Javid, that the MPs should be allowed to rejoin the parliamentary party.
It is also reported that Mr Johnson's brother, Jo, was concerned about the hardline stance before he announced his resignation as a minister and MP on Thursday.
Mr Fallon, who also confirmed his intention to step down from Parliament at the next election, added: "As I said, I hope there can be some mechanism for appeal and I also think they need to make it very clear to Remain voters that at the end of October we are doing a huge thing, one of the biggest things we have done in this country since the Second World War.
"It is very important that we do try and take those who voted Remain, and nearly half the country voted Remain, we do try and take them with us."
He added: "There is still time to find a way through this with some kind of compromise agreement and it is very important, I think, that those who voted Remain do feel like they are wanted with us on this voyage into a new future."