Local Tory bosses warn MPs not to block no-deal Brexit as crunch Commons vote looms

Posted On: 
23rd February 2019

Local Tory bosses have warned their MPs not to block a no-deal Brexit ahead of a looming Commons showdown this week.

Tory association chairs backed a motion at a meeting of the National Conservative Convention
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PA Images

Conservative party officials from around the country voted overwhelmingly for a motion that said scuppering the UK’s departure from the EU would “damage democracy and our party for a generation”.

It is believed that at least 30 Tory MPs - including some ministers - are prepared to defy the Government by backing an amendment on Wednesday that would block a no-deal departure.

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Three Cabinet ministers - Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark - last night indicated they would vote for the plan which could force the PM to delay Brexit if negotiations remain deadlocked.

But Tory association chairs on the National Conservative Convention piled pressure on any MPs thinking of backing the amendment in a motion passed by 72 to 15 at a meeting on Saturday.

The motion stated: “The National Convention supports the commitments the Prime Minister has made to the country to honour the European Union referendum result of 2016, that having triggered Article 50 we will leave the European Union on the 29 March 2019.

“Another referendum, a delay beyond the European elections, taking ‘no deal’ off the table or not leaving at all would betray the 2016 People’s Vote and damage democracy and our party for a generation.”

The plan to block a no-deal Brexit is set to be tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory MP Oliver Letwin, as an amendment to the progress report motion the PM is set to put to the House next week.

It would hand backbenchers the power to seize Commons time for a bill which would force the PM to hold a vote by mid-March on whether to leave with no-deal or extend Article 50 - assuming negotiations remain deadlocked.

'DESELECTIONS'

The NCC motion was submitted by Dinah Glover, the chair of Bethnal Green & Bow Conservative Association and London East Area. It is rare for NCC members to submit motions for debate.

Ms Glover told PoliticsHome last month that the motion was a “polite reminder” to Tory MPs that “trying to frustrate Brexit is not acceptable”.

She said: “It is important that no-deal has to remain on the table because that actually strengthens our negotiating position."

And she added: “If MPs are working against a very significant part of the Conservative manifesto then they should build into their calculations that deselection procedures may be brought against them.

“But it is up to their individual associations whether that is a route they would like to go down.”

It comes after reports that a number of pro-Remain Tory MPs are facing the threat of deselection by their local parties.

Three MPs - Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Dr Sarah Wollaston - resigned the whip this week in protest at the party position on Brexit and the pressure within their local associations.

SPELMAN AMENDMENT

In January, more than a dozen Tories helped pass a Commons amendment calling for a no-deal Brexit to be ruled out.

The call, tabled by Meriden MP Caroline Spelman, was backed by 17 colleagues on the Tory benches, including former ministers Ken Clarke, Justine Greening and Nick Boles.