Katy Balls Katy Balls

Tories on the brink of civil war at Brexit debate

Today’s Brexit debate was likened by one Conservative politician to a ‘group therapy session’. If that therapy session involved members of the same family turning on one another in a bitter feud then it was a rather apt description, as MPs used the session to air their personal grievances over the government’s handling of the referendum result.

With Theresa May forced to make a last minute amendment to Labour’s motion on Tuesday night in order to prevent a Tory rebellion, it came as little surprise that the session was dominated by Conservative in-fighting. As Anna Soubry — a core member of the post-Brexit awkward squad — argued that Parliament must vote on Article 50 and that the government should abandon its immigration target, her colleague Kwasi Kwarteng could be heard shouting ‘rubbish’ in the background.

Bill Cash accused his soft Brexit colleagues of ‘weasel words’ in the debate, as a total of seven former Tory ministers called on the government to engage more with concerns about Brexit. One such former minister, Claire Perry, argued that David Davis had put ‘narrow ideology’ ahead of the national interest. Meanwhile Ken Clarke continued to stir the Brexit pot — warning that companies abroad would not invest unless there was more clarity about what leave really meant.

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Matters weren’t helped by the Brexit Secretary’s confusion on such matters. Although he dismissed a claim early on from George Eustice that a Brexit white paper was likely, by the end of the session he appeared to suggest that one could actually be published.

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