Tory rebels warn of split with 80 MPs likely to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit plan

Therea May’s plan is seen as a version of “soft Brexit” since it envisages a “common rulebook” with the EU after Brexit, while hard Brexiteers led by Boris Johnson want a complete break from all links with the EU.

world Updated: Sep 11, 2018 07:01 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Brexit,Chequers Brexit deal,Chequers Brexit
Brexit-related tensions within the Conservative Party are expected to come to a head during its annual conference in October, when Theresa May will seek the support of members for her Brexit plan.(REUTERS)

It may be more rhetoric than reality at this stage, but at least 80 MPs of the ruling Conservative Party are said to be ready to vote against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan, which sparked a series of resignations from her government in July.

The most significant resignation was that of foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who has since criticised May’s plan in print. Stave Baker, junior minister in the Brexit department who too resigned, said on Monday 80 MPs would vote against her plan outlined at Chequers, which led to a split in the party.

The withdrawal agreement, to be finalised in Brussels, will be put to a vote in the House of Commons, ideally before March 29, 2019, the date for the UK’s formal exit from the European Union under Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty.

May’s plan is seen as a version of “soft Brexit” since it envisages a “common rulebook” with the EU after Brexit, while hard Brexiteers led by Johnson want a complete break from all links with the EU, which, they say, is the message of the 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

A Downing Street spokesman brushed aside claims that 80 Tory MPs will vote against May’s plan, saying: “Chequers is the only plan on the table that will deliver on the will of the British people while avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland.

“The prime minister is working hard to secure a deal and hopes all MPs will be able to support it.”

On Johnson describing May’s plan as a “suicide vest” on Sunday, the spokesman added: “This is not language that the prime minister would choose to use. Beyond that, I don’t plan on giving this article further oxygen.”

According to Baker, if the May government tries to push through the Brexit deal in the House of Commons with support from Labour Party, the Conservative Party “would suffer the catastrophic split which thus far we have managed to avoid”.

He said, “It is absolutely no pleasure whatsoever to me to acknowledge that, but I look at the mood of colleagues and the mood of the Conservative Party in the country and I am gravely concerned for the future of our party.”

Brexit-related tensions within the Conservative Party are expected to come to a head during its annual conference in October, when May will seek the support of members for her Brexit plan, while Johnson, in a separate address, is due to reiterate his criticism of her plan.

First Published: Sep 11, 2018 07:01 IST