Fresh Tory split as pro-EU ex-minister says Chequers Brexit plan is ‘more unpopular than the Poll Tax’
A Remain-backing former Cabinet minister has joined Tory Brexiteers by condemning Theresa May’s Brexit blueprint.
In the latest example of bitter Tory infighting, Justine Greening said the Prime Minister's plan to maintain close economic ties with the EU was "more unpopular with the British people than the Poll Tax".
The former Education Secretary, who supports a referendum on whether to accept the final deal agreed between the UK and Brussels, said the Government was “going round in circles” in its efforts to promote the plan.
Her comments come after Boris Johnson used his weekly Daily Telegraph column to accuse the PM of waving "the white flag" in the Brexit negotiations, which he said will end in "victory" for the EU.
In a stinging rebuke however, the Prime Minister's official spokesman suggested the former Foreign Secretary - who quit the Cabinet over Mrs May's Brexit strategy - was not a "serious" politician.
But Ms Greening insisted that opposition to the official government position, which was agreed at Chequers in July, was not confined to pro-Brexit Tories.
“Boris has echoed those views and even today we see Nick Boles, who’s a Remainer, saying that he can’t support it anymore,” she told the BBC’s World at One.
“I think the reality is, the biggest problem for me, is how people see this. The Chequers deal is now more unpopular with the British people than the Poll Tax was and that’s why it is untenable to take forward and the Prime Minister now cannot waste the next two months shuttling around Europe pretending that nothing has changed, trying to land a deal that no one wants and has no prospect of actually getting through Parliament.”
She added: "It’s now clear, when we hear from very different wings of the party, is that the one thing that has united the country over the last couple of months is opposition to the Chequers deal and the Prime Minister now needs to ditch that and find a way through."
But fellow Remainer and former Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the BBC’s Politics Live that Mrs May was “absolutely right in her compromise proposal of Chequers…”
“I’m definitely not alone. I don’t know what the numbers are but I do know that it’s the best shot we’ve got of the compromise Brexit we want,” she said.
Labour MP and campaigner for pro-EU group Best for Britain, Gareth Thomas said: “If there's one thing the country has worked out over summer, it's that the UK would be worse off under the Prime Minister's Chequers plan. Leavers and Remainers alike think Chequers doesn't work for them, or the country.
“Nobody voted to be poorer and have no say in laws we would have to abide by.”