PM faces grass­roots re­volt as Tories ac­cuse her of Brexit deal ‘pro­pa­ganda’

Lo­cal party chair­men’s protests add to pres­sure as May ral­lies sup­port for with­drawal on her terms

The Daily Telegraph - - Brexit Countdown - By Harry Yorke PO­LIT­I­CAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

THERESA MAY is fac­ing a grass­roots re­volt over her Brexit deal, with 29 Tory as­so­ci­a­tion chair­men ac­cus­ing her of mis­us­ing party funds to dis­trib­ute “pro­pa­ganda”.

Se­nior ac­tivists have writ­ten to Con­ser­va­tive Party head­quar­ters say­ing they are “ap­palled” that their as­so­ci­a­tions have been in­structed to can­vass vot­ers and press Brex­i­teer MPS into vot­ing for the agree­ment.

They are de­mand­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of paid-for leaflets back­ing the deal be “stopped with im­me­di­ate ef­fect”.

The chair­men added that the deal has been met with wide­spread op­po­si­tion from grass­roots ac­tivists, and that funds should not “be used on di­vi­sive is­sues where the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers strongly ob­ject to a flawed agenda”.

Last week, party mem­bers re­fused to dis­trib­ute tens of thou­sands of post­cards urg­ing them to write to MPS who have de­clared their in­ten­tion to vote the agree­ment down next week.

The Daily Tele­graph un­der­stands that boxes of the post­cards are now pil­ing up at dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tres.

Mean­while, four lead­ing Brex­i­teers – Boris Johnson, David Davis, Ja­cob Rees-mogg and Priti Pa­tel – will to­day ad­dress the Na­tional Con­ser­va­tive Con­ven­tion, and are ex­pected to is­sue a ral­ly­ing call for lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tions to speak up against Mrs May’s deal.

Ms Pa­tel, the for­mer in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment sec­re­tary, is ex­pected to say the deal “does not de­liver for the coun­try, does not de­liver for Leave vot­ers, and cer­tainly does not de­liver for Con­ser­va­tive Party mem­bers”.

She will add: “I can­not vote for a deal that gives away more control to Brus­sels and threat­ens our pre­cious Union.”

Mr Davis, the for­mer Brexit sec­re­tary, last night joined lo­cal chair­men in con­demn­ing the use of party funds to lobby MPS op­pos­ing the agree­ment.

“Ac­tivists work hard to raise money for our party. That money should not be used to try to pres­surise MPS to sup­port a pol­icy that is con­trary to the prom­ises they made in our own man­i­festo,” he said.

The chair­men’s let­ter, which was pub­lished by www.con­ser­va­tivehome. com, says: “We are ap­palled that as­so­ci­a­tions have re­cently been re­ceiv­ing pro­mo­tional lit­er­a­ture for dis­tri­bu­tion to mem­bers of the pub­lic urg­ing them to lobby MPS to back the Prime Minister’s pro­posed With­drawal Agree­ment with the EU. You will be well aware how con­tro­ver­sial this pro­posed agree­ment is. Polls show Con­ser­va­tive MPS, party mem­bers and the Bri­tish pub­lic strongly op­posed.

“Given these wide­spread con­cerns I am sure you un­der­stand why it is ques­tion­able at best that party mem­bers’ funds are now be­ing used to front what amounts to a pro­pa­ganda cam­paign to get MPS to back the pro­posed deal.

“Whether we voted Leave or Re­main, or agree with the Prime Minister’s deal or dis­agree, never should party funds or party-funded CCHQ staff be used to lobby against our duly elected Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment.”

The in­ter­ven­tion by the chair­men rep­re­sents an­other set­back for Mrs May, who yesterday dis­patched dozens of min­is­ters across the coun­try in a last-ditch ef­fort to shore up sup­port for the deal ahead of next week’s vote.

While she hopes to turn the screw on Tory rebels by speak­ing di­rectly to vot­ers, polls show even higher lev­els of op­po­si­tion to her deal among Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers. Ac­cord­ing to last week’s Yougov poll, just 38 per cent of Con­ser­va­tive leavers back the deal, with 45 per cent op­pos­ing it.

Mrs May’s at­tempt to turn the screw on Tory rebels ap­pears to be back­fir­ing

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