Ex-Cabinet minister suggests Tory MPs could face sack over hard Brexit letter

Posted On: 
8th September 2017

A former Cabinet minister has suggested that members of the Government who backed a letter calling for a hard Brexit could face the sack. 

Nicky Morgan said there would be 'great interest' in the pro-Brexit WhatsApp group

Nicky Morgan, a prominent backer of the Remain campaign, said the Chief Whip and 10 Downing St would have "great interest" in the position of Brexit minister Steve Baker and Treasury aide Suella Fernandes.

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.

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Mr Baker and Ms Fernandes both contributed to a WhatsApp group which encouraged colleagues to sign the letter, the Times reports - a move which may have breached collective government responsibility. 

However friends of Mr Baker have insisted he only sent a "thank you" message to colleagues for supporting him at the despatch box during yesterday's Brexit department questions.

Ms Morgan, who served as Education Secretary before being sacked when Theresa May became Prime Minister, suggested both her colleagues could face disciplinary action.

"In my experience it's much better that ministers and PPS's, because they are considered to be on the government payroll as well, are the ones who are explaining and setting out government policy, not seeking to challenge it publicly," she told the Today programme. 

"Now obviously what happens about that, who said what to who, is going to be something that I've no doubt the Chief Whip and Number 10 will have great interest in.

Asked whether she thought the pair could be sacked, she replied: "I have no idea, I would never seek to second-guess what the Chief Whip or Number 10 would say."

And she launched a strong attack on Eurosceptic colleagues, accusing them of damaging the Conservative party. 

"In my experience it is much better for ministers to steer clear of anything publicly other than official government publication which talks about government policy.

"There are many of us in the Conservative parliamentary party who feel that successive leaders have tried to appease the views of those who are in the European Research Group now, or have been putting these views forward for 20 years and that has been to the detriment of the Conservative party."