Brexit Rebels Defend Vote on EU Withdrawal Bill Amid Torrent of Threats of Deselection and Criticism

By Katie Chan [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The Tory MPs who opposed the government over the EU Withdrawal bill on Wednesday night have defended their decision against a flood of criticism and summons for their deselection. However, they warned of more to come.

Theresa May, the British Prime Minister suffered a humiliating defeat on the eve of her trip to the European Council, where she will start to establish the framework for discussions on transition and trade. After numerous hours of debate, it was not clear until the final minute of the discussions which way it would go – eventually, PM May lost by only four votes.

The rebels were immediately condemned for their actions, with Nigel Evans citing them of “treachery” and claiming that they made the chances of a Corbyn government more possible.

Nadine Dorries, the Mid Bedfordshire MP, echoed the comments of Evans, stating: “Tonight, the Tory rebels have put a spring in Labours step, given them a taste of winning, guaranteed the party a weekend of bad press, undermined the PM and devalued her impact in Brussels. They should be deselected and never allowed to stand as a Tory MP, ever again.”

One of the first to suffer for his actions was Stephen Hammond. He was promptly dismissed as the vice chairman of the party for London after he voted in favour of the amendment of Dominic Grieve to clause nine.

On Twitter, Hammond said that he was “disappointed” by the decision. However, he explained that he had “put country and constituency before party and voted with my principles to give Parliament a meaningful vote.”

A particularly vocal supporter of Grieve’s amendment, Anna Soubry, stated: “I put the interests of everyone in the UK before party loyalty this evening.”

“Tonight Parliament took control of the EU Withdrawal process,” stated Nicky Morgan, a fellow One Nation Tory.

For the government, the vote last Wednesday night poses a real risk that further upsets on the European Union Withdrawal Bill could be around the corner. Next week, MPs are set to debate regarding the inclusion of the time and date on the face of the bill, which is something that Grieve and the others have regularly spoken out against.

On Wednesday, Hammond and Grieve warned that PM May could have another defeat on her hands if she refuses to back down.

The government-backed amendment aims to set in law that the membership of the United Kingdom of the union will end at 11pm GMT (which is midnight in Brussels) on the 29th of March 2019.

On Wednesday, Grieve told BBC Newsnight: “I hope very much [another rebellion] won’t be necessary because if the government comes back with that date I’m sure the government will be defeated and I have no desire to defeat the government or be involved in the government’s defeat a second time.”