Chris Grayling says blocking Brexit could lead to a surge in extremist groups

Posted On: 
12th January 2019

Blocking Brexit could lead to a rise in neo-Nazi extremist groups and leave those who voted to exit the EU feeling “cheated”, Chris Grayling has warned.

Preventing Brexit would also play into the hands of "disturbing" far-right leaders, Grayling warned.
Credit: 
PA

The Transport Secretary told the Daily Mail that ending the country’s withdrawal from the EU could end centuries of “moderate” politics in the UK.

And he predicted that failing to leave the EU would create a “different tone” in British politics, leading to a “less tolerant” and “more nationalistic nation”.

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He said: "This is too important for political game-playing and I urge Conservative MPs who back Brexit and others to back the deal.

"If not, we risk a break with the British tradition of moderate, mainstream politics that goes back to the Restoration in 1660.

"MPs need to remember that Britain, its people and its traditions are the mother of Parliaments. We ignore that and the will of the people at our peril."

Failing to leave the EU could, he warned, also lead to more “nasty” incidents - such as the taunts directed at MP Anna Soubry and journalist Owen Jones outside parliament this week.

Police have been forced to step up their presence around Parliament following a series of verbal confrontations by far-right activists against pro-EU politicians and journalists.

Mr Grayling meanwhile said blocking Brexit would play into the hands of “disturbing” far-right leaders such as ex-English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson.

But his comments drew swift condemnation from Labour MP David Lammy, speaking on behalf of the Best for Britain campaign which backs a second referendum.

"This is a desperate attempt by a government minister to use a tiny far right minority to hold our democracy to ransom. It is gutter politics.

"History shows us appeasement only emboldens the far right and impoverishing the country through Brexit will only increase resentment.

"To heal our nation, we need to provide a positive narrative that actually addresses the inequalities that have been allowed to ferment over recent years, rather than follow through with bogus solution that worsens them."

His Labour colleague Luciana Berger - supporting the 'People's Vote' push - said Mr Grayling was "cowering behind the small threat of far right extremism as an excuse for refusing to give the British people a democratic final say on Brexit".

She added: "These remarks are not only grossly irresponsible but also show just how desperate supporters of this proposed Withdrawal Agreement have become.

"We absolutely need to heal divisions in our society but we will not do so with a Brexit that makes us poorer and offers less control.

"And the answer to a small band of far right thugs roaming the streets must never be to capitulate and restrict our democratic engagement - it must be more democracy.”

His comments come ahead of the crucial Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal due to take place on 15 January.

A fresh poll found that most Conservative voters want MPs to back Prime Minister’s Brexit deal – with 55 per cent in favour, compared to 30 per cent of Labour voters.

Overall, the results show that the public is still against May’s deal, with only 34 per cent in favour.  

A recent survey of MPs also found that three-quarters of the Commons felt that Theresa May has done a bad job of handling Brexit negotiations.