PM denies ‘betrayal’ over Brexit amid Tory heckling in Commons

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Conservative in-fighting broke out in the Commons as Theresa May was forced to deny the Chequers agreement was a “betrayal” over Brexit.

Peter Bone faced shouts of “shame” and “nonsense” from Tory colleagues as he outlined how activists in his Wellingborough constituency refused to campaign at the weekend as they felt “betrayed” over what emerged from the Cabinet summit.

Mrs May said she was “very sorry” the activists did not feel able to campaign, before adding: “This is not a betrayal.”

The exchanges came in the Commons as Mrs May faced MPs to update them about Brexit in the wake of the resignations of Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

“We have an hour’s meeting where we talk about national and local politics and then we go out and campaign for two hours.

“This week, the activists were so disappointed about what had happened at Chequers.”

Mr Bone was heckled as he added: “They said they were betrayed and they asked, ‘Why do we go out each and every Saturday to support the Conservative Party and get MPs elected?’

“For the first time in over 10 years, that group refused to go out and campaign.

“What would the Prime Minister say to them?”

Mrs May replied: “Can I say first of all I’m very sorry his activists did not feel able to go out and campaign – I would hope they would campaign for their excellent Member of Parliament and win support for him on the doorsteps.

“This is not a betrayal. We will end free movement, we will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, we will stop sending vast sums of money to the European Union every year, we will come out of the Common Agricultural Policy, we will come out of the Common Fisheries Policy.

“I believe that is what people voted for when they voted to leave and we will deliver in faith to the British people.”

Conservative former minister Sir Edward Leigh earlier noted the EU has said it will not tolerate cherry-picking, adding: “What I fear is we picked the wrong cherry, for this reason – we, by accepting a common rule book in goods, are locking ourselves into a sclerotic structure where the EU has an overwhelming trading surplus.

“Will this not severely constrain our ability to make our business more competitive and to undertake free trade deals, so that Brexit will no longer mean Brexit – it will mean the commission, where we will have no vote, regulating our business forever?”

Mrs May said this was “not the position for the future”, adding Parliament will be able to take decisions on rules.

She went on: “The practicality of Brexit is that our businesses who want to export to the European Union will continue to operate to the European Union’s rule book on industrial goods.

“Just as when we sign trade deals with other parts of the world, we will need to ensure that both sides operate to the rules appropriate there.”

Conservative former minister John Redwood asked Mrs May to “clear away the ambiguity or contradictions in the Chequers statement which implies we would give the ECJ powers, we might pay money to trade and we might accept their laws and we might have their migration policy”.

Mrs May said the Chequers statement “did not say that”.

Tory MP Anne Main (St Albans) later asked Mrs May if she would consider recalling Parliament over the summer recess depending on how negotiations progressed.

She said: “Of course negotiation is about give and take and some people may think we have given rather much, but I’m actually not sure that the European Union will take it. I think they’ll want us to give a little more and a little more.

“Can I ask that she will recall Parliament over the summer if in those deep and pacy negotiations we are asked to give even more?”

The suggestion drew scoffs and jeers from several Tory MPs, with Mrs May responding: “Although I
recognise the good intentions with which she asked that question I suspect it didn’t quite receive the full approval of the entire House.”

Conservative MP for Cleethorpes Martin Vickers said his constituents, who voted 70% for Brexit, have become “increasingly frustrated at the progress being made and the concessions that have been made” in the last two years.

“That frustration is now turning into anger. What can the Prime Minister say to them that will actually reassure them that there will be no further concessions?”

Mrs May said: “I believe the important message to his constituents and to others is that we are delivering on those key issues that I believe led to people voting to leave the European Union.”

Tory Paul Masterton (East Renfrewshire) urged Mrs May to “hold firm in the national interest” as he welcomed the Cabinet plans.

He added: “What we have here forms the basis for a good deal for Scotland.”

Tory MP Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot) said: “I’ve gone very carefully through everything and I cannot see how what was agreed at Chequers actually does deliver Brexit, to be honest, hard or soft.”

She added: “Please, I think the people would like you, Prime Minister, to stand up to Mr Barnier and to say ‘no’.”

Mrs May, in her reply, said: “It is precisely because we’re saying ‘no’ to the proposals put forward by the European Commission that we are putting forward our own proposal.”

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