Final Say: Anti-Brexit campaigners to target 50 Conservative MPs in push to win people's vote on deal

More than 670,000 people attended a march to demand a second referendum on leaving the EU

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Sunday 21 October 2018 18:06
Comments
More than 700,000 protesters march on Westminster calling for a Final Say on Brexit deal

Pro-EU campaigners have drawn up a hit list of 50 Tory MPs who could be persuaded to support a second Brexit referendum after more than 670,000 people took to the streets to demand a vote on Britain’s exit terms.

Five government ministers are among the Conservative politicians deemed ”reachable” by the People’s Vote group, which is ramping up pressure on individual MPs to back a final say on plans to leave the EU.

It comes in the wake of the major demonstration for a fresh Brexit vote on Saturday, organised in partnership with The Independent, which is thought to be the largest march in the capital since the Iraq War protests in 2003.

Only seven Tory MPs have openly backed a second referendum but a significant number are understood to be privately weighing their options as Theresa May struggles to unite both her own party and Brussels on the best way forward.

Former minister Anna Soubry, who was one of the first Conservative MPs to support a new vote, told The Independent: “I can tell you, privately lots and lots of Conservatives MPs are saying, ‘How else are we going to solve this problem? How else are we going to solve the impasse over there in parliament?’

“Remember, [this is] a government that after two and a half years has still not worked out what its policy is and a government that has no mandate for a hard Brexit.”

She was joined by ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve and prominent backbenchers Justine Greening, Sarah Wollaston, Philip Lee, Guto Bebb and Heidi Allen in backing a second referendum.

Dr Lee, who quit the government in June to speak out over Brexit, told activists at Conservative conference that at least three ministers were privately supportive of another referendum.

In a targeted push, the campaigners have set aside more than £100,000 for individual polls of more than 600 constituencies, sometimes at the request of MPs themselves, which are due to be published this week.

Protesters brought the streets to a virtual standstill on Saturday as they marched from Park Lane to Parliament Square, where celebrities including Delia Smith and Deborah Meaden gave speeches, and politicians including Labour’s Chuka Umunna, Tory MP Sarah Wollaston and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable addressed the crowds.

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor who attended the march, said voters from both sides of the Brexit debate had been galvanised because they “feel the Brexit process is not going well”.

He told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday: “I don’t believe there is an ‘it’ [a Brexit deal] that she is going to be able get through parliament. What happens then?

“It may actually be that that is the moment, amid the chaos that might follow that if she can’t get a majority in parliament for a deal, that that’s when it goes to a people’s vote.”

It comes as the prime minister faces a battle to save her leadership in the coming days after a crunch EU summit broke up without any sign of a Brexit deal.

Angry Tory MPs are urging Ms May to make a rare appearance before the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers on Wednesday, to undergo a grilling about her Brexit strategy.

A Downing Street source said a decision had not been made about the prime minister’s diary. It is unusual for any prime minister to address the committee apart from at the beginning and the end of the parliamentary term.

Ms May will, however, address MPs about the Brussels summit on Monday, where tensions could flare up over her suggestion that the Brexit transition period could be extended to allow negotiators more time to solve outstanding problems, such as the Irish border.

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