Tory splits emerge as MPs demand Theresa May implements hard Brexit

Posted On: 
7th September 2017

Dozens of Tory MPs have launched a campaign urging Theresa May not to keep Britain in the EU "by stealth" during a post-Brexit transition period.

Theresa May with European Commission president Jean-Clude Juncker.
PA Images

Around 40 members of the backbench European Research Group signed a 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.

The letter - which has been seen by The Times - said: "Continued membership of the single market, even as part of a transitional arrangement, would quite simply mean EU membership by another name, and we cannot allow our country to be kept in the EU by stealth.

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"The Government must respect the will of the British people and that means leaving the single market at the same time as we leave the EU."

The MPs also call on the Government to insist to Brussels that the UK must be able to sign trade deals with other countries during any transition period.

"In short, when we leave in 2019 we need to make sure we are well and truly out," the letter said.

"With these clauses in place, the will of the British people will have been respected and the country set on a course to make a great success of Brexit."

Having lost her Commons majority at the general election, the letter piles pressure on the Prime Minister to give in to the Brexiteers' wishes in return for their support on key votes.

However, the letter also exposed deep Conservative splits on Brexit.

Former minister Anna Soubry, a staunch Remain supporter during the EU referendum accused her colleagues of trying to "bind the hands" of UK negotiators.

She told The Times: “I am hugely disappointed, in the wake of the general election which saw the Conservatives lose our majority, that colleagues are seeking to bind the government’s negotiating hands in such a way as to make the hard Brexit the country and the PM doesn’t want, inevitable."

Nicky Morgan, another former minister and Remain backer, said: "It is unacceptable for a group within the Conservative parliamentary party to lay down terms which seek to undermine the UK's negotiations with the EU."