Fury as Brexit Secretary says fresh EU referendum would fuel abuse of MPs after Anna Soubry 'Nazi' jibe
Anti-Brexit campaigners have lashed out at Cabinet minister Stephen Barclay after he said a second EU referendum would fuel right-wing protesters' anger at MPs.
The Brexit Secretary said abuse directed at pro-EU Tory Anna Soubry outside parliament showed how “divisive” the issue had become and said it was time to “come together” rather than stage a fresh vote.
But he was blasted by MPs from across the political divide, who branded the comments “disgraceful” and a sop to “fascist thugs”.
Ms Soubry was called a “Nazi” and a “liar” by Brexiteer protesters as she was interviewed outside parliament yesterday - and was later chased down the street being called a “fascist”.
At least 55 parliamentarians have since signed a letter to Met Police chief Cressida Dick after Speaker John Bercow called on officers to do more to guard MPs following criticism of their lack of response.
Mr Barclay raised the issue as he argued that holding another EU referendum to break the Brexit deadlock in parliament would be “hugely damaging to our democracy; to our politics”.
“We saw in the appalling scenes outside parliament, in the way that my colleague Anna Soubry was disgracefully treated yesterday, how divisive this process has been,” he told the Radio 4 Today programme.
“And I think it is time now, after what has been a difficult period of time, to come together in the national interest - to unite behind the only deal on the table.”
But pro-EU campaigner and Labour MP Chuka Umunna blasted on Twitter: “Disgraceful for the Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on @BBCr4today to suggest the abuse and intimidation @Anna_Soubry was subject to yesterday is a reason not to hold a democratic #PeoplesVote.
“The notion we should be intimidated into NOT holding democratic votes is deplorable.”
His ally Ben Bradshaw added: “Disgraceful comments from rookie #brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay claiming the attacks on @Anna_Soubry are reason not to have a #peoplesvote on May’s botched deal. Since when has Britain give in to fascist thugs?”
And SNP MP Stewart McDonald weighed in to say: “Quite possibly the most spineless response imaginable from Barclay when asked about the intimidation and abuse of one of his own colleagues.
“With that record it’s easy to work out why he got his job in government.”
Meanwhile, Green MP Caroline Lucas said ministers should be “joining us in standing up to bullying & intimidation - not being complicit with it”.
Ms Soubry said after her ordeal last night: “Apparently MPs & politicians are meant to accept it as part of the democratic process.
“I fail to see why journalists and technicians should be subjected to the same abuse & intimidation as the police stand by and do nothing. They tried to stop me getting into Parliament.”
Left-wing political commentator Owen Jones was also confronted by the group, and filmed them dishing out a raft of insults towards him as he walked around the same area.