Tory Remainer MP Anna Soubry has demanded to know who is running the country after being ordered to abstain on a vital Commons vote.
After being told by whips not to vote in support of Labour’s motion to force the government to release legal advice from the attorney general on Brexit she blasted: ‘Who is running this country? This government or the ERG?’
Ministers have scrambled to try to prevent a loss in the Commons vote with cabinet office minister David Lidington offering assurances to Parliament that it will lay out the political and legal position on the proposed withdrawal agreement when Brexit negotiations have concluded.
He told the Commons: ‘I want to give a commitment to the opposition and the House: we will make available to all members of the House, following the conclusion of negotiations and ahead of the meaningful vote, a full, reasoned position statement laying out the Government’s both political and also legal position on the proposed withdrawal agreement, and that includes any protocols that might be attached to it.
‘In addition, the attorney general has authorised me to confirm to the House this afternoon that he is ready to assist further by making an oral statement to the House and to take questions from members of the House in the normal way.’
It came as Labour sought to use a parliamentary procedure known as a ‘humble address’ to ask for ‘any legal advice in full, including that provided by the attorney general, on the proposed withdrawal agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union including the Northern Ireland backstop and framework for a future relationship between the UK and the European Union’.
However Tory Remainers have expressed their dismay that they have been whipped to abstain on the vote both in the House of Commons and on social media.
Anna Soubry tweeted: ‘Appalled dismayed and ashamed that the Government has instructed Its MPs to abstain on Labour’s motion on disclosing the advice of the AG [attorney general]. Be under no illusion as to who is running our country – the ERG.’
In the Commons she suggested she had been whipped to abstain because the government did not have the numbers to prevent defeat.