Grayling accused of 'gutter politics' over Brexit warning

PUBLISHED: 11:39 12 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:39 12 January 2019

Chris Grayling. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Chris Grayling. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

The transport secretary has been accused of engaging in "gutter politics" after he said that stopping Brexit would "open the door" to "extremist" forces in the UK.

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Chris Grayling said putting a stop to Britain’s withdrawal from the EU may end centuries of “moderate” politics the UK has enjoyed since the English Civil War as he urged his Conservative colleagues to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

The Brexiteer said the millions who voted for Brexit would feel “cheated” if the UK did not exit the EU.

Grayling told the Daily Mail: “People have to think long and hard about how they are going to vote. This is too important for political game-playing and I urge Conservative MPs who back Brexit and others to back the deal.

“If not, we risk a break with the British tradition of moderate, mainstream politics that goes back to the Restoration in 1660.

“MPs need to remember that Britain, its people and its traditions are the mother of parliaments. We ignore that and the will of the people at our peril.”

He said there would be a “different tone” in British politics if Britain failed to leave the EU and predicted a “less tolerant society” and a “more nationalistic nation”.

“It will open the door to extremist populist political forces in this country of the kind we see in other countries in Europe,” Grayling told the newspaper.

“If MPs who represent seats that voted 70% to leave say ‘sorry guys, we’re still going to have freedom of movement’, they will turn against the political mainstream.”

TNE columnist and Labour peer Andrew Adonis said: “When Chris Grayling can organise a lorry jam and a railway timetable, we’ll take his advice on fixing a political system which he did more than almost anyone to break.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “Chris Grayling has lost the plot. This kind of scaremongering is not only dangerous, but it is embarrassing.”

Journalist James O’Brien tweeted: “The far right flourishes when it is *not* resisted and frustrated. If we’ve learned anything from recent and more distant history, it is surely this. On the other hand, Chris Grayling argues that we shouldn’t do things fascists won’t like because fascists won’t like it.”

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