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- The number of Conservative rebels prepared to vote against the government over amendments to the withdrawal bill has risen to 20.
- Rebels were labelled as “Brexit mutineers” by the Daily Telegraph, but this has only hardened their position.
- Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry says she has reported threatening tweets to the police following being called a mutineer.
LONDON – The number of Conservative MPs prepared to rebel against the government over amendments to the withdrawal bill has risen after they were labelled “mutineers.”
More than 20 Tory MPs are expected to vote against Theresa May’s plan to fix the date of Brexit in law, which would mean Britain leaving the European Union at 11pm on March 29, 2019, no matter the circumstances.
The potential rebels were called “Brexit mutineers” by the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, which led to the newspaper being accused of “blatant bullying” by one of the group, former minister Anna Soubry.
MPs have been debating amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill this week, as the legislation is at committee stage in the House of Commons.
They have completed two of the eight days of debate over the flagship legislation, which is an attempt to transpose all existing EU law into UK law so that the current legal system can continue as it does currently after Brexit. A defeat on any issue would be highly embarrassing for the government.
Following the castigation of potential Conservative rebels as “mutineers” at least five more supporters have been added to the cause, taking the number of votes against the government to over 20, The Times reported.
Members of the 15 “mutineers” pictured on the Daily Telegraph’s front page attacked rightwing papers for bullying tactics, which may have resulted in threats on social media.
Soubry said on Wednesday: “According to my office, they have just reported about five, if not more, tweets to the police issuing threats against myself following the front-page article in Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph.”
She asked the Speaker, John Bercow to “make it very clear to everybody, in whatever capacity, that they have an absolute duty to report responsibly and make sure they use language that brings our country together and makes sure that we have a democracy that welcomes free speech and an attitude of tolerance.”
Bercow said any attempt to intimidate MPs was “repugnant” and “doomed to fail” and told MPs: “She should not be subject to threats and neither should any other member of this House or indeed any person for holding and expressing a political opinion.”
Former education secretary Nicky Morgan accused the Daily Mail of ringing local Conservative associations in rebel MP’s constituencies, trying to turn activists against politicians.
She said they were “entirely missing the point that we were all elected or re-elected just five months ago.”
So the Daily Mail is now calling round our constituencies & local parties asking how we represent our constituents – of course not interested when response is supportive & entirely missing the point that we were all elected or re-elected just 5 months ago #AntiBullyingWeek pic.twitter.com/dOtxsHDHJ0
— Nicky Morgan MP (@NickyMorgan01) November 15, 2017
The government avoided any defeats on the second day of debating amendments to the withdrawal bill, but its majority on one vote concerning workers’ rights and environmental standards after Brexit dropped to 12.
This suggests that over the next six days of debate May and her government may fail to avoid defeat as their majority gets smaller.
Former international development secretary Priti Patel made her first speech as a backbench MP since she resigned from the cabinet.
She told MPs they should avoid Brexit pessimists: “There are members tabling amendments, and rightly so. But I don’t think we should listen to, really, those that simply do not have the confidence in this House, in our democracy and also in our country going forward, along with the suggestions that we are incapable of governing ourselves. Fundamentally, we should be rejecting that.”