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Senior Tory warns she won’t stay in a ‘Brexit Party’

Justine Greening warned Theresa May she will not stay a member of a ‘Brexit Party’ today as Westminster waits for a new wave of defections to the Independent Group.

The former education secretary said she was staying as a Tory ‘for the moment’ but said commitment to no deal could push her over the edge.

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve has also hinted he could quit the Tories if Mrs May commits to a no deal.

The warning echoes criticism of three ex-Tory MPs who quit yesterday warning the Conservatives have been taken over by hardline Brexiteers in the European Research Group.

Chancellor Philip Hammond denied the battle was lost today as he attacked the ERG as a ‘small hard core with a hardline view’. 

He said he hoped Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen could in future return to the Tory fold – despite their vow to defeat the Conservatives in their new Independent Group. 

Ms Greening is among a raft of MPs on both sides of the Commons facing questions about whether they will join the 11-strong group that broke away from their parties this week.

In other developments of the Independent Group today, a former Labour donor hinted he could fund the group if it gets off the ground. 

Justine Greening warned Theresa May she will not stay a member of a ‘Brexit Party’ today as Westminster waits for a new wave of defections to the Independent Group

Chancellor Philip Hammond denied the battle was lost today as he attacked the ERG as a 'small hard core with a hardline view'.

Chancellor Philip Hammond denied the battle was lost today as he attacked the ERG as a ‘small hard core with a hardline view’.

Mr Hammond said he hoped Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen could in future return to the Tory fold - despite their vow to defeat the Conservatives in their new Independent Group

Mr Hammond said he hoped Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen could in future return to the Tory fold – despite their vow to defeat the Conservatives in their new Independent Group

The Putney MP has campaigned on social mobility since resigning from Mrs May’s Cabinet last year.

Asked if she would defect, she told the Today programme: ‘It is something that I have considered, but I have reached a different conclusion for the moment.’

She added: ‘I don’t think I would be able to stay part of a party that was simply a Brexit party that had crashed us out of the European Union,’ she said.

Ms Greening said she had ‘not seen the Prime Minister recently’ despite asking ‘on multiple occasions’.

She added: ‘I fail to see how we can be successful in the long-term if we are simply a party of Brexit. There will be other parties that stand for Brexit, no doubt, running at the next election.

What is the Independent Group and can you vote for it?  

What happened this week? 

Seven MPs resigned from the Labour Party on Monday and set up something called the Independent Group. They were joined by an eigth Labour MP last night.

Three Tory MPs also left their party – warning the Conservatives have been gripped by a right wing, pro Brexit insurgency.

Who is in the group? 

Ex-Labour MPs Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Joan Ryan.

Ex-Tory MPs Sarah Wollaston, Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen.  

Is it a political party? 

No. It is a small business – technically a limited company – called Gemini A Ltd that was set up Gavin Shuker, one of the MPs, in January.

Can I vote for it? 

No. Unless and until it registers with the Electoral Commission, it cannot stand candidates.

Can I donate to it? 

Yes. The group is accepting donations through its website theindependent.group. It says donations will support the newly independent MPs.

What does it want? 

All the MPs are Remain supporters and most of them have promoted a second referendum to cancel Brexit. They say they want evidence-based policy making to tackle the challenges facing Britain – without being inside the current political parties.

‘If we are not a party that seems credible on economic policy or on opportunity; if we don’t reach out to a new generation, then I think we have to accept that we will simply not have the level of support in the country we need to be a credible political party.’  

Ex-Tory MP Sarah Wollaston suggested that the Conservative party was ‘destroying itself’ amid speculation former colleagues could follow her to the new Independent Group.

‘I know that there are many colleagues on my side who will be watching carefully and expecting Theresa May to be certain that she is not going to take us out on a no-deal Brexit,’ she told Today.

‘Certainly I think that a third of the Cabinet, I’m pretty clear, would walk if they were looking at a no-deal Brexit.’

Dr Wollaston said ‘the Tory party has changed, I think it has changed irredeemably’, adding: ‘I would say the Tory party is destroying itself.’

In a later interview, the Chancellor insisted the battle for the Tory Party was not over.  

While admitting no deal was ‘always a possibility’ he attacked the ERG and said they were not in charge.

He said: ‘There is a small hard core that have a hardline view and are not likely to be flexible or to compromise.

‘Government policy is clearly focused on delivering a deal. 

‘My job is to avoid – and make sure Government is focused on – avoiding that outcome.’ 

He added there were a ‘wider group of MPs who are sympathetic to some of the objectives of ERG but who recognise that, in this broad church that is the Conservative Party, compromises are necessary’. 

Mr Hammond admitted it was ‘uncomfortable we are so close to the wire’ but said it was the nature of political negotiations.

In other developments of the Independent Group today, a former Labour donor hinted he could fund the group if it gets off the ground. 

Lord Levy says he will not give money ‘at the moment’, telling Today: ‘I want to keep my powder dry – I want to see what is going to happen in the future.’ 

In other developments of the Independent Group today, former Labour donor Lord Levy hinted he could fund the group if it gets off the ground.

In other developments of the Independent Group today, former Labour donor Lord Levy hinted he could fund the group if it gets off the ground.

The latest exchanges come after Chuka Umunna, the ringleader of the ex-Labour MPs who quit on Monday, said the group would be a full-blown political party within months. 

In a move designed to cause the maximum damage, the trio made their leap less than an hour before Mrs May faced MPs in the bruising weekly session of PMQs – and on the same day she has to convince Brussels she can pass a Brexit deal.  

Vowing to stand in the ‘centre ground’ in a damning letter to Mrs May the group said they could not remain in the Tories while it was ‘in the grip of the ERG and DUP’. They said Brexit has ‘redefined the Conservative Party – undoing all efforts to modernise it’ – and warning that the ‘country deserves better’ from its politics. 

In an immediate response, Mrs May said she was ‘saddened’ by the decision and thanked the MPs for their ‘dedicated service to our party over many years’.

The PM vowed the Tories would ‘always offer the decent, moderate and patriotic politics’ Britain deserved. She said delivering Brexit was ‘never going to be easy’ but insisted she was ‘doing the right thing for our country’. 

The move puts rocket boosters under the new political movement that was launched by a ‘gang of seven’ ex-Labour MPs on Monday. It is the biggest split in British politics since 1981 and could set in motion a total realignment of the party system. 

As Tory defectors to the new Independent Group claimed there were a 'significant' number of MPs in other parties on the brink of quitting, Westminster is abuzz with who could be  next

As Tory defectors to the new Independent Group claimed there were a ‘significant’ number of MPs in other parties on the brink of quitting, Westminster is abuzz with who could be next

A sensational poll by YouGov puts the new independent group in third place on 14 per cent - appearing to pull support from both Tory and Labour 

A sensational poll by YouGov puts the new independent group in third place on 14 per cent – appearing to pull support from both Tory and Labour 

Conservative MP for Aberconwy, Guto Bebb, quit as a defence minister blaming Theresa May’s concessions to Brexiteers and has called for a second referendum. He refused to respond when asked if a move was on the cards. 

Brecknell MP Phillip Lee quit as a justice minister over Brexit and said he could ‘understand’ if colleagues joined the Independent Group.

He is the only member of the second referendum delegation that met Gavin Barwell and David Lidington last month who has not joined the Independents. He said yesterday: ‘I’m certainly not leaving the Conservative party but I could understand if others did.’ 

Nick Boles, MP for Grantham and Stamford, admitted he agrees with the breakaway group’s message suggesting he could be the next Tory to make the move but did add that he was ‘not ready to give up on the Conservative’s yet’.  

Among Labour, Owen Smith, the former leadership candidate has said that he is ‘considering’ leaving over Brexit. He was sacked from Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet last year after he called for a second referendum. 

Stephen Doughty, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, has been a key supporter of a People’s Vote alongside the breakaway MPs, but yesterday denied rumours he was on brink of quitting Labour and joining them, 

Ian Austin, MP for Dudley North, has said he is ‘thinking long and hard’ over whether to join his former colleagues in the breakaway group and is expected to make his decision by the end of this week. He denied he would quit today.

Speaking in Brussels last nigth, the PM said: ‘I’m saddened by the decision that three former members of my party have taken today.

‘Of course, the question of the UK’s relationship with the European Union has been a source of disagreement in my party, and also in the country, for a long time. 

‘Leaving the European Union after 40 years was never going to be easy.’ 

Who will quit next? The favourite defection candidates

LABOUR 

Siobhain McDonagh. Has warned she could leave if Jeremy Corbyn fails to address concerns over Brexit and anti-Semitism. Yesterday said she did not want to quit the party after 43 years, but said: ‘It’s up to Jeremy and how he responds.’

Owen Smith. The Labour leadership candidate has said he is ‘considering’ leaving over Brexit. He was sacked from the shadow cabinet after he called for a second referendum.

Stephen Doughty. Has been a key supporter of a People’s Vote alongside the breakaway MPs, but yesterday denied rumours he was on the brink of joining them.

Dame Louise Ellman. Is facing the threat of deselection from her local constituency party. But the Jewish MP has so far insisted: ‘I will continue to fight the virus of anti-Semitism in the Labour party from within.’

Jess Phillips. Yesterday raised speculation she could go by saying: ‘I was born Labour and I felt like I’d die Labour but, when I listen to my colleagues, I find it very hard to disagree with a lot of what they were saying.’

Ian Murray. Scot has warned the current leadership was ‘breaking the broad church that this party once built its electoral success upon’, but yesterday said: ‘I’m not going.’

Ian Austin. Said he is ‘thinking long and hard’ over whether to defect. Opposes a second referendum.

Peter Kyle. Staunch supporter of a second referendum has faced opposition from Corbyn supporters in his constituency. Tweeted: ‘Just to be clear, I’m not about to quit.’

TORIES

Soames

Sandbach

Top from left: Bebb, Greening, Grieve, Johnson; middle from left: Lee, Boles, Letwin, Gyimah; bottom from left: Soames, Sandbach

Guto Bebb. Quit as a defence minister blaming concessions to Brexiteers and has called for a second referendum. Did not respond when asked if he would defect.

Justine Greening. Former education secretary supports a second referendum but remained silent yesterday.

Dominic Grieve. Has put forward several amendments to thwart the PM’s deal. Yesterday, the former attorney general said he had no ‘current plans’ to quit the party.

Jo Johnson. Boris’s brother quit as a transport minister over Brexit and wants a second referendum. Asked about rumours he could jump ship, he said: ‘Don’t believe anything.’

Phillip Lee. Quit as a justice minister over Brexit. He said: ‘I’m not leaving the Conservatives but could understand if others did.’

Antoinette Sandbach. Said comments about a ‘purple Momentum’ were ‘hard to dispute’ but ruled out defecting.

Oliver Letwin. Ex-minister has rebelled over Brexit. Asked if he was going to join the Independents, he replied: ‘Definitely not!’

Sam Gyimah. Quit as universities minister over Brexit. Retweeted the statement from the Tories that quit. When asked if he would join them, said: ‘No way. Retweeting their message doesn’t mean I’m going to follow suit.’

Nicholas Soames. Ardent Remainer, he was silent on whether he would follow his grandfather Winston Churchill in defecting.

Nick Boles. Ex-minister tweeted: ‘I agree with so much of what my good friends say here but I am not ready to give up on Conservatives yet.’

 

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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