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Rebel Tory MPs told they will be deselected if they vote to block no-deal Brexit

3 min read

Tory MPs who support an opposition bid to block a no-deal Brexit will be banned from standing for the party at the next election.

Conservative whips delivered the uncompromising message following talks over Sunday lunch at Chequers with Boris Johnson.

On Tuesday, opposition parties are expected to launch an attempt to pass legislation which would effectively prevent the Prime Minister taking the UK out of the EU without a deal.

Former Cabinet heavyweights Philip Hammond and David Gauke are among the Tory MPs who could vote with them.

But a senior source from the Government whips office made clear that their political career would effectively be over if they did so.

They said: "The whips are telling Conservative MPs today a very simple message - if they fail to vote with the Government on Tuesday they will be destroying the Government’s negotiating position and handing control of Parliament to Jeremy Corbyn.

"Any Conservative MP who does this will have the whip withdrawn and will not stand as Conservative candidates in an election. 

"There is a chance of a deal on 17 October 17 only because Brussels realises the Prime Minister is totally committed to leaving on 31 October. All MPs face a simple choice on Tuesday: to vote with the Government and preserve the chance of a deal or vote with Corbyn and destroy any chance of a deal.’

But a source close to the group of rebel Tory MPs said they would not be scared off by the threat.

"This is sheer hypocrisy," said the source. "Almost a quarter of the current cabinet have voted against the party whip. But this is about the national interest, and we've moved beyond the point where threats will persuade people to abandon their principles."

A Number 10 source hit back: "No one in Cabinet voted to give control away to Corbyn - to keep the government in place as a puppet while legislation is passed to neuter it, to undermine negotiating position, and direct the PM.

"If you do not have confidence in the approach of the Government, we have to treat this as a confidence matter."

On Sunday, Mr Gauke gave a strong hint on Sky News that he was prepared to defy the Tory whip to back a law preventing no-deal.

He said: "if it is the position now that defying a whip on a European vote is a matter that you lose the whip for the Conservative Party, then I think there’s quite a lot of Conservative MPs who over recent months would have lost the whip. 

"But sometimes there is a point where you have to judge between your own personal interests and the national interest, and the national interest has to come first.

"But I hope it doesn’t come to that and I hope cooler and calmer heads will look at this and think that trying to split the Conservative party in this way is not a sensible way forward for the Conservative Party, or indeed the country."

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has sparked a fresh row by cancelling a meeting he was due to have with around 20 Tory MPs opposed to no-deal.

The get-together was due to take place on Monday afternoon, but was scrapped on Sunday.

A source close to the group said: "Aside from being deeply discourteous, todays behaviour shows this is not a government interested in compromise.

"These MPs want proof that there is a genuine and sincere attempt to get a deal. The fact that the Prime Minister isn't even prepared to meet them suggests there isn't."

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