Conservative Party Conference: Five things to watch

Final Say: 'Significant' number of Conservative MPs would back new Brexit referendum, says Dominic Grieve

PM facing a 'polite rebellion' of pro-EU Tories, who think a new vote is 'indispensable' to avoiding a damaging no-deal Brexit

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
@LizzyBuchan
Sunday 30 September 2018 17:39
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A “significant” number of Tory MPs would be prepared to back a second referendum on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, a senior Conservative has said.

Ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve said the prime minister was facing a “polite rebellion” of pro-EU Tories who think a new vote is “indispensable” to avoiding a damaging no-deal Brexit.

Mr Grieve became one of the first senior Tories to break cover over the need for a new referendum earlier this year, telling The Independent it was the “only sensible way forward”.

He has been joined by prominent backbenchers Anna Soubry, Justine Greening, Sarah Wollaston, Philip Lee and Guto Bebb – and South Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen, who declared the Chequers plan was “dead” on Saturday.

The Independent has been campaigning for the public to have a say on any deal Ms May secures with Brussels, which has won the backing of more than 820,000 people.

Mr Grieve’s intervention comes at the start of what promises to be a fraught party conference for the prime minister, as she seeks to sell her Brexit plan to her divided party.

Labour members voted to keep the option of a second referendum – including the potential to remain in the EU – on the table at their conference last week, which means there could be a parliamentary majority in favour of another vote, Mr Grieve said.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the MP for Beaconsfield said: “I believe the time has come for a polite rebellion by pragmatic Conservatives.

“Including myself, it is now clear that there is a significant group of Conservative MPs who think that a People’s Vote – a vote on the final form Brexit will take, is absolutely indispensable for the future wellbeing of our country.”

Mr Grieve added: “A no-deal Brexit is a proposal so damaging to our future that it cannot be accepted.

“So the only possible response must be to return to the British electorate and ask them what they want. That, it seems to me, is a good pragmatic Conservative position.”

Mr Grieve warned that the crisis over Brexit was “paralysing government” and damaging the Tories’ reputation.

“It reduces our reputation for quiet effectiveness in delivering positive change for our country,” he said.

His comments came as Boris Johnson launched a fresh broadside against the prime minister, where he described her Brexit policy as “deranged”.

The former foreign secretary is ramping up the pressure on Ms May as the Tory faithful gather in Birmingham, where the EU exit strategy is likely to dominate.

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