Lord Heseltine calls on MPs and peers to abstain on damaging Brexit bill

Lord Michael Heseltine, on stage during the People's Vote rally. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire.

Lord Michael Heseltine, on stage during the People's Vote rally. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Tory grandee Lord Heseltine has called on MPs and peers to abstain when voting on Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal with the European Union, which he warned will inflict “lasting damage” on the UK.

The former deputy prime minister, who campaigned to remain within the bloc, said however that he would not vote against it because the consequences of a no-deal would be even graver.

The president of the European Movement campaign group was joined by Labour’s Lord Adonis and Stephen Dorrell, a former Conservative cabinet minister who defected to the Lib Dems, in urging parliamentarians not to endorse the treaty.

Parliament is being recalled to vote on the deal on Wednesday, a day before the agreement is to be implemented at the end of the transition period.

Lord Heseltine said: “The government has an electoral mandate and I will not vote against consequential legislation if that might lead to the even worse consequence of a ‘no-deal’ rupture.

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“I make clear, however, that I and the European Movement will in no way share in the endorsement of legislation that will do lasting damage to our country’s strategic, political and economic interests.”

Lord Adonis and Dorrell, who are chairs at the pressure group, said there is “no doubt” the deal will pass, with Labour whipping to back it because the alternative is a chaotic no-deal.

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“We call on all opposition voices, including any Conservatives who put country before party, to refuse to endorse the government’s deal,” they said.

“This deal bears no resemblance to what was promised; it damages Britain’s economy, jobs, security, trade in vital goods and the respect with which the UK is held and opponents of the deal should not allow themselves to be held responsible for its consequences.

“The only people who should vote for this deal are those who are willing to accept responsibility for its consequences.”

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