Fury at Tory ‘col­lab­o­ra­tors’ threat­en­ing to side with Labour in bat­tle over Brexit

Rebels could put Cor­byn in Down­ing St

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Ja­son Groves Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

‘Vot­ing with them be­yond the pale’

TORY Re­main­ers were branded ‘col­lab­o­ra­tors’ last night as they threat­ened to side with Labour to frus­trate Brexit in Par­lia­ment.

As the EU With­drawal Bill be­gan its de­tailed scru­tiny in the Com­mons, the rebel group said they were ready to in­flict a se­ries of dam­ag­ing de­feats on the Gov­ern­ment.

They served no­tice that they would join forces with Labour to op­pose the Gov­ern­ment on the de­tail of the leg­is­la­tion – in­clud­ing Theresa May’s bid to en­shrine the Brexit date in law.

It came af­ter al­most 20 Tory rebel MPs held a ‘stormy’ meet­ing with party whips at which they re­fused to back down – de­spite warn­ings they risked bring­ing Jeremy Cor­byn to power.

Labour also faced di­vi­sions, with for­mer min­is­ter Frank Field be­ing heck­led by fel­low Labour MPs as he warned they needed ‘ed­u­cat­ing’ on the level of sup­port for leav­ing the EU among party sup­port­ers.

But the scale of the re­volt on the Tory benches cre­ates the real risk of Gov­ern­ment de­feats in the com­ing weeks.

Vet­eran Euroscep­tic Sir Bill Cash ac­cused his pro-Re­main col­leagues of ‘col­lab­o­ra­tion with Labour’ – and said vot­ing with the op­po­si­tion on Brexit would be ‘be­yond the pale’.

Sir Bill, chair­man of the Euro­pean scru­tiny com­mit­tee, said Tory ‘dis­si­dents’ were play­ing into the hands of those in the ‘un­elected House of Lords’ who want to re­v­erse the ref­er­en­dum re­sult.

He warned they risked spark­ing a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis which would ‘prob­a­bly take us into the sphere of a gen­eral elec­tion and dan­ger of a Cor­bynista gov­ern­ment, which as good Con­ser­va­tives they must ab­hor’.

The leg­is­la­tion cleared its first par­lia­men­tary hur­dles last night, with MPs vot­ing by 318 to 52 to re­peal the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ties Act 1972, which en­shrines the supremacy of EU law in this coun­try. But Down­ing Street is braced for a dif­fi­cult few weeks ahead. It came as:

Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis sought to ease busi­ness con­cern by say­ing agree­ment on a twoyear tran­si­tional deal could be struck ‘very early next year’;

Theresa May’s pol­icy chief Ge­orge Free­man faced crit­i­cism af­ter warn­ing that a bad Brexit deal could turn Bri­tain into ‘an old peo­ple’s home’;

Ni­cola Stur­geon warned Mrs May the Scot­tish par­lia­ment could refuse con­sent for the EU With­drawal Bill;

The Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt sug­gested a dead­line to be­gin trade talks next month would be missed as there had been ‘no progress’ on di­vorce ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Labour yes­ter­day con­firmed it would try to vote down at­tempts to fix the date of Bri­tain’s exit from the EU in law – rais­ing doubts about whether the UK will leave.

For­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral Do­minic Grieve, the leader of the Tory Re­main­ers, de­scribed Brexit as an ‘ex­tra­or­di­nary painful process of na­tional self-mu­ti­la­tion’. In a ref­er­ence to the whips’ tac­tics, he said he would not be ‘or­dered’ to back down.

He rounded on Sir Bill’s claim of ‘col­lab­o­ra­tion’, point­ing out that Sir Bill had re­belled against John Ma­jor’s gov­ern­ment dur­ing the de­bates on the Maas­tricht Treaty 25 years ago.

A hard core of nine Tory MPs have signed 19 amend­ments to the Gov­ern­ment’s leg­is­la­tion. But their num­bers could more than dou­ble on some is­sues – mean­ing that even with the sup­port of the DUP and Labour rebels, the Gov­ern­ment’s ma­jor­ity could be in jeop­ardy.

For­mer busi­ness min­is­ter Anna Soubry con­firmed that a group of 18 Tory rebels had had a bust-up with chief whip Ju­lian Smith.

She added: ‘It was stormy... the date go­ing into the Bill has re­ally up­set a lot of re­ally topqual­ity back­bench Con­ser­va­tive MPs.’

But for­mer Tory leader Iain Dun­can Smith said MPs had ef­fec­tively ap­proved the exit date when they voted to in­voke the two-year Ar­ti­cle 50 process in March this year.

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