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Philip Hammond angers Brexiteers by branding them 'extremists' ahead of no-confidence vote

Chancellor says Tories trying to topple the prime minister want to crash UK out of EU without a deal – relishing opportunity to 'flush' them out

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 12 December 2018 15:36 GMT
Chancellor Philip Hammond slams 'extremist' rebels that called no confidence vote on Theresa May

Philip Hammond has angered hard Brexit-supporting Tory MPs ahead of Theresa May’s no-confidence vote by branding them “extremists”.

The chancellor accused colleagues attempting to topple the prime minister of wanting to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal – arguing the vote would “flush” them out.

The comments were quickly attacked by Conor Burns, a leading Brexiteer, who said: “The language used by the chancellor about colleagues is deeply unhelpful. We have to unite after this.”

Mr Hammond spoke out as cabinet ministers joined forces to throw their weight behind Ms May, ahead of the votes of 315 Tory MPs being cast between 6pm and 8pm this evening.

The prime minister requires 158 supporters to survive – after which there cannot be another contest for one year – although rejection by more than 100 Tory MPs could damage her fatally.

If Ms May is forced out, grassroots Tories are almost certain to pick a Brexiteer, who could put the UK on course for a no-deal Brexit if the EU refuses to renegotiate.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Hammond argued even a tight win would be enough, saying: “One vote clearly is enough in any election competition – it’s first-past-the-post

“I’m very clear the prime minister will have the support of the great majority of parliamentary colleagues.”

Then he added: “I think what this vote today will do is flush out the extremists who are trying to advance a particular agenda which would really not be in the interests of the British people or the British economy.

“Leaving the European Union without a deal would be bad for Britain.”

Bernard Jenkin, another pro-Brexit Tory, said: “It is odd, isn’t it, that 52 per cent of the country voted leave, and we put in our manifesto that we should leave the customs union, that we should leave the single market, take back control of our laws.

“Now we are faced with an agreement that doesn’t deliver these things. And we are called the extremists. It’s an Orwellian world we are living in, isn’t it?

“I thought that once we had won the referendum, we would be accepted as the mainstream.”

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