Tory rebels 'call on Theresa May to form soft Brexit alliance’ with Labour MPs

Posted On: 
18th December 2017

Conservative backbenchers who last week defied the Government on Brexit have reportedly urged Downing Street to form a cross-party alliance against a hard EU withdrawal.

Theresa May has been urged to face down hardline Tory Brexiteers
PA Images

Eleven Tory MPs went against the leadership last Wednesday to support an amendment aimed at ensuring parliament gets a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal before Britain leaves the EU.

The result - a first defeat for the Government on the EU Withdrawal Bill - is said to have emboldened soft Brexiteer Tories who are now calling on the Prime Minister to face down hardline anti-EU MPs and argue there is no mandate for their position.

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The Guardian says at least two rebels have spoken to senior figures at No 10 about reaching out to Labour’s more enthusiastically pro-European MPs - in a bid to establish a recognisable parliamentary majority.

Such a move, they believe, could allow the Prime Minister to argue for a closer future relationship with the EU, potentially including continued membership of the customs union.

One of those who voted for the amendment told the paper: “At the moment, the Labour party is terribly divided and therefore there are quite a large body of independent-minded Labour MPs who would be willing to respond positively to a request to provide support to a government that is seen to be doing the right thing.

“I think the danger is that if she leaves it too late, the window will close on that.”

Another said they had told No 10 chief of staff Gavin Barwell: “If you’re clever, you will reach over the head of [Jeremy] Corbyn and go to those sensible Labour people and put the hard Brexiters back in their box.”

Labour MP Chuka Umunna told the paper: “There is no doubt that last week’s vote has strengthened the hand of Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd and Greg Clark, the soft Brexit advocates in cabinet.

“Members from across the whole House will now be looking to them to use their new-found leverage to bring some coherence and sanity to bear on the unsustainable negotiating position of the government.”

Elsewhere, The Times has reported that three members of the Shadow Cabinet have said Labour is likely to announce it wants to stay in a modified version of the EU customs union indefinitely.

The paper says the party will back staying in a system very similar to the one that exists, with Britain being part of any trade deals struck by the EU.

The party will reportedly try to negotiate a Brexit arrangement that would see the UK retain a seat at the table, on the EU side, in future trade talks between the bloc and other countries.