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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

And now divisions deepen within the Tory Party

I am currently reading Tim Shipman's book about the Brexit referendum 'All out war' which sets out clearly how the divisions within the Conservative Party over Europe that started to emerge under Margaret Thatcher hardened as the European project developed. He points out that three successive Tory leaders were brought down over Europe. The question is, could Theresa May be the fourth?

If this story in the Independent is any guide then our current Prime Minister is walking a very fine tightrope that could see her also cast aside over the issue of Europe. They say that the hardline Brexiteers in the Tory Party are getting bolder and more explicit in their threats against their party leader.

They report that Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned Theresa May she risks splitting the Conservative Party in two and could be ousted as prime minister if she breaks Tory backbench Eurosceptics’ red lines on Brexit:

The arch Brexiteer compared Ms May’s predicament to that of 19th Century prime minister Sir Robert Peel, who forced through the controversial repeal of the Corn Laws against the wishes of many of his MPs.

The move resulted in Peel being forced to quit as prime minister and the Conservative Party splitting, with the “Peelites” eventually joining forces with the Whigs and others to form the Liberal Party.

Asked about Brexiteers' demands after delivering a speech to mark one year until Brexit, Mr Rees-Mogg said Ms May would be risking similar consequences if she relies on Labour votes to get a final Brexit agreement through parliament without the support of her Eurosceptic backbenchers.

He said: “Let’s be frank: all the red lines have gone in the transition deal – there isn’t a red line left in that.

“The concern is whether the red lines will be in the final withdrawal agreement."

In a thinly-veiled threat, he added: “I’m sure the prime minister knows her history. I’m sure that she knows how Robert Peel got the repeal of the Corn Laws through. No Conservative leader would ever wish to get through so major a piece of legislation again on the back of opposition votes.

“I think the Government will stick to its red lines, because that is the political reality.”

It is this pressure that makes a hard Brexit more likely but also underlines why we need to redouble our efforts to get any deal ratified through a referendum.

If the price of averting disaster is another split in the Tory Party and Theresa May being ousted then so be it. The needs of the country must come first.
I will be quite happy for the Tories to split as long as Moggs lot is a small rump that can disappear into the mist of time.
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