Osborne: Tories heading for opposition unless they change track on Brexit

PUBLISHED: 09:39 22 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:39 22 December 2018

George Osborne

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The Tory Party is heading for a prolonged period in opposition "unless it engages more with modern Britain" and changes direction on Brexit, George Osborne has warned.

The former Conservative chancellor warned that a general election was more likely than many people believed in 2019 in order to break the impasse in Parliament over Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement.

Osborne, who was sacked from the Cabinet by May when she became prime minister in 2016 and is now one of her most strident critics, told BBC Radio 4's Today that she devised "Brexit means Brexit" because she voted Remain "albeit sotto voce" and therefore "had to prove her Brexit credentials".

He said: "That was essentially a massive mistake by the Conservative administration, which it was punished for at the general election because the Conservative Party decided to embrace the Brexit result in such a way as to essentially dismiss the views of those who voted Remain, treat them as saboteurs or traitors, and run against urban Britain."

Osborne, who resigned as MP for Tatton and is now editor of London's Evening Standard, told Today that if he had remained in politics he would now be having to be "going along with a whole load of things which I profoundly disagree with", citing no-deal preparations like readying troops.

He said: "Of course I think 'perhaps I should have stayed' and I could have been part of this melee in the Conservative Party at the moment.

"I would have essentially tried to steer a) the country away from the rocks to which it is heading at the moment and b) the Conservative Party away from a prolonged period of opposition, which is where I think it is heading unless it engages more with modern Britain."

Osborne attacked the "reckless decision of hard Brexiteers" to pursue a no-deal Brexit, saying: "I don't think the country voted to mobilise the Army, stockpile medicine, hoard food and go around the world buying every fridge available.

"That is not what was offered and that is now what is happening."

He added: "My view is a general election is at the moment an under-reported likelihood for 2019 because in the British system the simplest way to solve political impasses has been to return to the public and a general election."

There was also praise for the current attempts by MPs to block a no-deal Brexit, with the former chancellor saying: "The British political system is trying to pull the country back from this cliff edge of the referendum result.

"The reason why Parliament is now actively talking about things like the Norway option of a relationship with the EU is precisely because the political system is now trying to act as a check on what essentially is a reckless decision - that is to precipitously leave the European Union without an agreement."

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