‘Ministers back People’s Vote’ says senior Tory

Justine Greening MP and Philip Lee MP

Justine Greening MP and Philip Lee MP - Credit: Archant

Three government ministers and plenty of other Tories back a People's Vote, according to a senior Conservative.

A People's Vote demonstration taking place in central London. Photograph: Matt Crossick/EMPICS Enter

A People's Vote demonstration taking place in central London. Photograph: Matt Crossick/EMPICS Entertainment. - Credit: Empics Entertainment

Phillip Lee told a meeting of Conservatives for a People's Vote on the fringe of the party's conference in Birmingham that Tory MPs were under 'huge pressure' from activists not to speak openly of their concerns about EU withdrawal.

And Justine Greening told the meeting none of the suggested Brexit options - Theresa May's Chequers plan, Boris Johnson's preferred 'super-Canada' trade agreement or no deal - could win a majority in the House of Commons.

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And the former education secretary said only the offer of a so-called People's Vote could 'unblock the stalemate' after May's final negotiation with the EU this autumn.

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With MPs offered a 'meaningful vote' on any deal, Ms Greening said: 'The Chequers deal isn't going to get through, I don't think a Canada deal would get through and no deal is absolutely going to be voted down by Parliament. That's a fact.

'We are going to reach stalemate... I think there is a growing band of Conservative MPs who have thought their way through this and reached the logical conclusion that a referendum is the only way we can unblock Parliament's stalemate.

'A growing number of Conservative MPs recognise this. It's a question of when they make their views known, not if.'

Lee, who quit May's administration in June over Brexit, told the meeting he believed some other ministers were 'on the cusp' of doing the same.

He said: 'I suspect there are significant numbers of colleagues who see the argument for a People's Vote.

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'I know of three ministers who do. But it is a difficult environment for them to come out.'

Another former minister, Anna Soubry, said it was 'appalling for democracy' that politicians and business figures who oppose Brexit privately have not made their views publicly known.

Greening, who walked out of the Cabinet in January, warned Conservatives would never shake off the label 'Tory Brexit' if EU withdrawal proved unsuccessful.

'The words 'Tory Brexit' will be ringing through the country forever and a day and there will be no pivoting for our party if this doesn't work out,' she said.

She said she would be 'holding firm' in any Commons vote, regardless of pressure from whips to back a deal secured by the Prime Minister.

'I will be holding firm because this is a historic vote,' she said. 'It is not normal party politics, it is something that sits above all that for MPs and they have to remember that when they troop through the voting lobbies. This sits above all the whipping.'

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