Brexiteers warn Theresa May she must whip Tory MPs to keep no-deal on the table

Posted On: 
5th March 2019

Theresa May has been urged to whip Conservatives MPs to keep a no-deal Brexit on the table if her EU agreement is defeated when it comes back for a second crunch Commons vote.

The Prime Minister has been warned that keeping no-deal Brexit as an option will make the EU 'sit up and understand'.
Credit: 
PA

Mrs May last week conceded to Cabinet pressure and agreed to hold a series of votes if the Commons again rejects her EU deal - with the first asking MPs whether or not they support Britain leaving the bloc without an agreement in place.

If MPs reject that option, a second vote on whether or not to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit is set to take place.  

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But senior Brexiteers Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg have now warned the Prime Minister that she must not allow MPs to kill off a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Duncan-Smith, a former Tory leader, told The Telegraph that Mrs May must "whip against an extension".

"That's what she has said for two years. She has to oppose anyone trying to take it off the table and to reject an extension.

"That will make the EU sit up and understand that we are serious.

"It won't give anything until these votes are done."

Mr Rees-Mogg, chairman of the powerful European Research Group of backbench Conservatives, meanwhile said a no-deal Brexit was "specifically referred to" in the 2017 Tory manifesto and warned: "The Government must whip for Government policy and manifesto commitments."

According to the Telegraph, two Cabinet ministers are also piling pressure on Mrs May to whip Tory MPs against Article 50 extension.

The warnings came as Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay headed to Brussels for the latest round of talks on the Irish backstop, the key element of Mrs May's deal that has angered Eurosceptics.

Mr Cox on Monday dismissed a report he had given up on the two key backstop changes demanded by Brexiteers as "misunderstood fag ends dressed up as facts".

Eurosceptics are hoping that the pair can secure legally-binding changes to the full withdrawal agreement Mrs May signed and are looking to impose a firm exit date on the backstop as well as an ability for the UK to quit the arrangement unilaterally.

They fear that the current plan to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland could leave the UK indefinitely bound to the EU's regulatory regime if it is triggered.

'SERIOUSLY UNWISE'

Top Eurosceptic Tories are meanwhile demanding that Downing Street give them enough time to allow a so-called "star chamber" of eight Brexit-backing legal experts to scrutinise whatever concessions Mr Cox and Mr Barclay manage to secure.

Veteran Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash, who is heading up the group, told the Sun: "It would be in the national interest for Parliament to have 48 hours to scrutinise what Geoffrey Cox proposes before the debate starts on Tuesday.

"We all need to make a proper analysis. To do otherwise would be seriously unwise."