Tory MPs could quit over a Brexit deal with Labour, says newly promoted minister

Rory Stewart appears on Peston's programme. Photograph: ITV.

Rory Stewart appears on Peston's programme. Photograph: ITV. - Credit: Archant

A Brexit deal between the government and Labour could see Tory MPs quitting the party, Theresa May's newly promoted minister has claimed.

Rory Stewart, who was appointed to the cabinet in the reshuffle triggered by the sacking of former defence secretary Gavin Williamson, said May had little choice but to reach out to the opposition in ongoing cross-party talks.

But asked if he thought backbench Conservatives could quit the party over a deal with Labour, Stewart told ITV's Peston: 'Yes, that is a risk.

'If they are insisting on a no-deal Brexit, which is not something the majority of the country wants and is not something the majority of Parliament wants, then there is no alternative in delivering Brexit other than to have to reach across the aisle.'

The international development secretary added: 'I think the prime minister needs to deliver the first stage of Brexit before she goes.'

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He said: 'She would like to get this through with Conservative votes but very sadly there are 30, 40 Conservative colleagues who have steadfastly refused to vote for a Brexit deal.

'She must deliver a Brexit deal, that's what people voted for, we've got to do it responsibly.

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'And if that means working cross-party on this issue, not in general, we don't agree with Jeremy Corbyn on 99% of things in the world, but on Brexit, there's a reason to do that.

'This is not a settlement for this week, it's something that's got to last for 30 or 40 years, got to last through changes of government, changes of parties, and I think doing Brexit cross-party could turn out to be a smart thing to do to reassure investors, for example, that this thing will last.'

Labour's shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner told the programme: 'What we are trying to do is we are trying to reach a compromise that the British people can look at and say, 'You know what, that's good enough for me'.

'And, I understand that half of my fellow citizens disagreed with me and therefore I can't have everything that I want, but going for that middle ground, going for the compromise and seeing Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May in negotiations trying to work this through, is a sensible place for British politicians to be.'

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