EXCL Government minister tells Brexiteer Tory MPs to join Nigel Farage's new party
A government minister has accused Tory Brexiteers of "treachery" and called on them to join Nigel Farage's new anti-EU party.
Richard Harrington said members of the hardline European Research Group who celebrated defeating Theresa May's Brexit deal last month were "not Conservatives" and should quit.
The business minister also said he was "very disappointed" that the Prime Minister was still refusing to rule out the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
And he dismissed the so-called "Malthouse Compromise", which Mrs May is considering as a potential way of breaking the Brexit deadlock, as "fanciful nonsense".
Mr Harrington's comments, in an interview with The House magazine, came as the ERG tonight rebelled against the Government to inflict another Brexit defeat on Mrs May.
Last month, ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg was criticised when it emerged he had held a champagne party at his home when the Government's Brexit deal was defeated by a record-breaking 230 votes.
Mr Harrington - who has vowed to quit his job if the Government ends up pursuing a no-deal Brexit - said he and other pro-Remain ministers were prepared to give the Prime Minister until the end of the month to reach an agreement with Brussels.
He said: "If we all resigned what would then happen? If I were in the ERG, it would give me a lot of pleasure to see us resign. But we can’t give in to a minority of a minority, which is what the ERG are.
"The Prime Minister has done a pretty good job of standing up to them up till now, but they were drinking champagne to celebrate her losing her deal and I regard that as being treachery.
"I read that Nigel Farage is setting up a new party called Brexit and if I were them I’d be looking at that, because that seems to reflect their views more than the Conservative Party does. They should read carefully what that party's got to offer because in my view, they’re not Conservatives."
Mr Harrington added: "There are people who are very solid and stringent in their views and if I were them I would be looking at a party that seems designed for them - Nigel Farage’s party."
Criticising Theresa May's handling of the Brexit talks, the minister said: "I’m very disappointed because two weeks ago we were told that the Prime Minister would be coming back to the House of Commons within two weeks and there would be a statement and an amendable vote after that. I took that, as one who is very concerned about the effects of not ruling out a hard Brexit, to mean we would have a deal or outline deal to discuss and the option of looking at that.
"We’re now told it would be in two weeks’ time, so from my point of view, being very conscious of the damage that not ruling out a hard Brexit is having on business and industry, I’m obviously concerned that it’s going to drag on for another two weeks.
"What concerns me more is there is now talk that there won’t be a final decision until the next EU Council on the 21 March which, as far as business is concerned, is completely unacceptable."
The Malthouse Compromise, which has been drawn up by Remain and Leave-backing Tory MPs and suggests using technology to maintain an open border in Ireland, is being discussed by a special working group set up by Downing Street to come up with options for breaking the impasse.
But Mr Harrington said: "t's basically regurgitated Canada Plus, which we know is not at all suited to our close relationship with the European Union, plus a bit of glorified number plate recognition kit, which they've got there anyway. I think it's just fanciful nonsense."