Tory MPs urge May to sack frontbenchers over support for Brexit letter

Posted On: 
8th September 2017

Remain-backing Tory MPs have urged Theresa May to remove a minister and a Treasury aide over their support for a letter advocating a so-called 'hard Brexit'.

Some Tories are urging Theresa May to take action against her frontbenchers
Credit: 
PA

Around 40 members of the backbench European Research Group of Tory MPs signed the letter calling for Britain to quit the single market so that the UK is "well and truly out" of the EU on 30 March, 2019.

Brexit minister Steve Baker and Treasury aide Suella Fernandes both contributed to a WhatsApp group encouraging colleagues to sign the letter, the Times reports - a move which may have breached collective government responsibility. 

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The position advocated in the letter is also directly at odds with the transition deal talked up by Ms Fernandes' boss, Chancellor Philip Hammond.

A government source told the paper that Ms Fernandes was at more risk than Mr Baker, saying: "In normal times Steve Baker’s encouragement to sign this letter would be a sacking offence, and it should be. However, it’s harder to see Suella’s comments, which are aimed at the Chancellor, mean she can survive in that job. She is in more danger.”

However, friends of Mr Baker insisted he messaged the group to thank colleagues for supporting him at his first despatch box appearance at Brexit department questions yesterday morning.

Former minister Stephen Hammond told the Times any support from ministers or aides for the letter should be a resigning matter.

“The European Research Group letter is an unacceptable attempt to hinder negotiations and jeopardise the government. It is entirely at odds with stated policy, which colleagues should be supporting, not undermining.

"It would therefore be completely unacceptable for any minister or parliamentary private secretary to support it or encourage others to sign. They should either sign and resign or stay and support the government.”