Sat, 20 July 2024

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Minister resigns as Theresa May narrowly survives Brexit rebellion in fresh Tory civil war

2 min read

Theresa May lost yet another government minister as her Commons majority was slashed to just three following fresh Tory in-fighting over Brexit.

Guto Bebb quit as a defence minister after being one of 14 Conservative MPs rebelling against the Government over an amendment to the Cross-Border Trade Bill.

Incredibly, he is the tenth member of the Government to resign since the Cabinet struck its Brexit agreement at Chequers last month.

On a night of Parliamentary drama, MPs voted 305-302 in favour of an amendment making it illegal for Britain collect tariffs on behalf of the EU unless Brussels agrees to do the same with UK levies.

Tory MPs were whipped to support the change, even though it appeared to contradict a key plank of the Chequers agreement.

The amendment was one of four which had been tabled by Tory Brexiteers and accepted by the Government - prompting accusations that Mrs May had "caved in" to Leave-backing rebels on her backbenches.

That decision sparked a counter-rebellion by pro-EU Conservative MPs, who joined forces with Labour to vote against the Government.

Mrs May's majority was also cut to three in another vote on whether the UK should be free to set its own VAT rates after Brexit.

The result of the crunch votes came at the end of a debate in which Tory spits on Brexit burst into the open.

Remain-backing Anna Soubry said: "The only reason the Government has accepted these amendments is because it's frightened of something in the region of 40 MPs - the hard, no deal Brexiteers who should have been seen off some time ago."

In an apparent attack on leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Broxtowe MP said it was wrong that someone with "a gold-plated pension and inherited wealth" should be dictating government policy on Brexit.

Adding to the sense of government chaos, ministers have tabled a motion calling for MPs to begin their summer holidays on Thursday - five days earlier than planned.

Critics said the move was designed to ease the pressure on the Prime Minister by reducing the time her Tory opponents have to mount a challenge to her leadership.

However, several Tory MPs have already said they will vote against the move, raising the possibility that the Prime Minister could suffer an embarrassing defeat when it is voted on in the Commons  on Tuesday.

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