‘You have changed your mind on Europe, I have not’
In a withering letter, former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has told Theresa May he does not believe it was necessary for her to sack him from his advisory roles for rebelling over Brexit.
Earlier this month, the Europhile Tory peer was stripped of his unpaid work, which included advising the Government on industrial regeneration, after backing a House of Lords amendment which would have forced Mrs May to offer MPs a meaningful vote on the EU withdrawal deal she agrees with Brussels.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Lord Heseltine said Mrs May had ‘every right’ to dismiss him, but suggested that he should have been given the same leeway to dissent from the party line on Europe as was granted to Tory ministers during the EU referendum.
Replying to a March 13 letter in which Mrs May explained the reasons for his sacking, Lord Heseltine wrote: ‘You say in your letter that I will understand the necessity to end that relationship. Here we disagree.
‘I have repeatedly said you have every right to end my relationship with the Government,’ he wrote.
‘The simple fact remains that you have changed your mind since the excellent speech you made in the referendum campaign arguing that we should remain in the European Union. I have not.’
Read Lord Heseltine’s letter in full below:
Dear Prime Minister,
Thank you for you letter dated March 13th 2017.
I appreciate your kind remarks about my service to our country and our party. Particularly I am grateful for your thanks for the help I have been able to give to the recent coalition and then the majority governments led by David Cameron and yourself. I was never a member of one of these governments, a point I invariably made when addressing audiences about my work. I offered advice which ministers were free to accept, reject or ignore.
You say in your letter that I will understand the necessity to end that relationship. Here we disagree. In the referendum campaign it was recognised that so deeply held and so divided were the views on both sides that members of the Cabinet and other ministers were free to argue and vote against the government’s European policy without sanction.
In my speech I made clear that my vote neither held up nor denied your ability to trigger Article 50. Indeed the urgency about which we heard so much at the time seems in the event somewhat diminished. My only vote was designed to give the House of Commons a second chance to enshrine in law a commitment you yourself had already given to allow Parliament a vote on any Brexit deal. The commons declined the advice of the Lords and I and most Peers accepted the position.
I have repeatedly said you have every right to end my relationship with the government. The simple fact remains that you have changed your mind since the excellent speech you made in the Referendum campaign arguing that we should remain in the European Union. I have not.
The Rt Hon. the Lord Heseltine CH