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Tory civil war erupts as party's own election leaflet urges voters to pile pressure on Brexiteers

3 min read

Conservative Brexiteers have reacted with fury after a leaflet drawn up by Tory bosses urged voters to lobby the party's own MPs to back Theresa May's EU deal.


The campaign literature - sent out by Conservative Campaign Headquarters and seen by The Telegraph - tells voters to access a special website to find out if their MPs have "backed the Brexit deal yet".

And it calls on constituents "to "write to your MP to tell them to back a Brexit deal".

But senior Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin said the leaflet's authors had "lost touch with reality".

The row comes ahead of European elections on 23 May, which are set to take place after Theresa May agreed a fresh extension to the Brexit process with the European Union following three bruising defeats for her deal.

The CCHQ leaflet seeks to point the finger at MPs for the fact the election is going ahead, saying the vote can still be "stopped" if "a majority of Members of Parliament back a deal in time".

It adds: "Which MPs are preventing the deal from being done? Almost 90 per cent of Conservative MPs have voted to support a deal, plus 5 Labour MPs and 4 Independents - but that is not enough for a majority in the House of Commons. For a deal to pass it needs the support of more than half of all MPs.

"How can I tell my political representatives to get on with it? If the European elections take place on 23 May, the only party which supports leaving the EU with a deal as soon as possible is the Conservative Party."

According to The Telegraph, a section of the website flagged by the leaflet allowing voters to scrutinise their MPs' voting record has been ditched amid objections from angry Tories.

Veteran Eurosceptic Sir Bernard Jenkin told the paper: "The people who produced this leaflet have completely lost touch with reality if they think attacking MPs in your own party is any way to further the interests of the nation or the party."

His Brexiteer colleague Priti Patel, a former Cabinet minister, meanwhile branded the leaflet an "outrage" and accused the party of reaching "a new low".

But a government source doubled down, telling the Telegraph: "MPs who have three times walked through the division lobbies with Labour, the LibDems and the SNP to stop Brexit should perhaps think hard about what they are doing to deliver on the referendum result."

'MAULING'

The row came as an aide to Chancellor Philip Hammond predicted that the Tories were on course for an "absolute mauling" in the EU-wide vote.

A succession of polls have suggested that the Conservative will slump behind the newly-formed Brexit party in this month's election - with a fresh study released this weekend even indicating that the new outfit could beat the Tories at the next general election.

Conservative MP Huw Merriman told the BBC's Westminster Hour: "The public will blame the Conservative government because we were the party that brought forward the referendum.

"And so for those that didn't want it and wanted Remain they'll blame us for having tried to take us out.

"And for those that voted to leave they'll blame us for having not got the country out of the EU.

"We're at the perfect storm so yes I think we'll get an absolute mauling."

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