Three Remain-supporting Conservative MPs have quit the Open Britain campaign group after it launched a bid to unseat Eurosceptic Tory MPs.
Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan and Dominic Grieve said it would be “untenable for us to play any further role” in an organising campaigning against parts of their political party.
Open Britain had released a list of target seats to attack that included four Conservatives, including former cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa Villiers.
The Tory party constitution forbids campaigning against its own candidates. Senior Tories criticised the move, with Tim Montgomerie, former editor of ConservativeHome, calling for the MPs to be expelled.
The three MPs announced they were quitting involvement with the campaign group in a joint statement.
“As long-standing Conservative Party members and MPs it is untenable for us to play any further role in an organisation, such as Open Britain, which is advocating campaigning against Conservative MPs or candidates,” they said.
“l and we will not be doing so. Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve.”
Other hard Brexit-supporting MPs targeted by Open Britain include Charlotte Leslie, Steve Baker, Caroline Ansell and David Burrowes. The only Labour MP on the list was Kate Hoey.
A spokesman for Open Britain said: “It is understandable that during an election campaign, political differences between members of different parties become magnified.
“Open Britain represents activists from all political persuasions who want to campaign against a hard Brexit and for a continued close relationship with Europe.
“As a grassroots organisation, we’ve had thousands of emails from our supporters asking how and where they should campaign during the general election and we are trying to direct them to where they can make the biggest difference in the fight against hard Brexit.
“The Government have made this into a Brexit election, so it would be surprising if Open Britain’s volunteers did want to get involved. There is no way of getting involved in an election like this, without campaigning for or against members of one party or another, so it was always going to disappoint some within a cross-party organisation.
“Our key seats list will continue to include support for those willing to campaign against hard Brexit from across the political spectrum. It has been a pleasure to work with some fantastic Conservative MPs in recent months and our door will always be open after the election to any that want to work with us in the future.”
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