An extraordinary email has gone out this afternoon to the members of Grantham and Stamford Conservative Association, sparked by Nick Boles’s tweet yesterday in which he threatened to resign the Conservative whip if “the government were to announce that ‘no deal’ Brexit had become its policy”.
Philip Sagar, the Association’s Chairman and, it seems, various of its members are very unhappy about their MP’s position, leading to an email headlined ‘Statement in response to Nick Boles MP’. I’ve enclosed the full text below – and Boles’s reply, which was also included in Sagar’s email. Suffice to say that it seems relations locally are very tense:
Statement by Philip Sagar, Grantham & Stamford Conservative Association Chairman
Whilst I know Nick is sincere is his belief that a No deal Brexit would be bad for our country’s economy and jobs and that at all costs a disorderly Brexit must be avoided, I fear his twitter post of yesterday has gone too far in threatening to “immediately resign the Conservative whip and vote in anyway necessary to stop it happening” if no deal becomes government policy. It will, and has already, reignited the calls for his deselection from party members and ex party members, many of whom have already contacted me. Unlike Anna Soubry, Nick said immediately after the referendum that he got the message from his employers – his constituents and that he would work to achieve a successful Brexit. To date he has consistently voted to give effect to the referendum decision, he voted for Article 50 and the Withdrawal Bill and has been instrumental in trying to find an alternative solution to the current impasse by coming up with a plan B that could command the support of Parliament when Theresa May’s less than perfect deal fails as it surely will. I have been mostly happy to support his pragmatism to date.
Whilst I voted leave, mainly because of Project fear and the Osborne threats of punishment budgets, I never wanted to be part of a Federal Europe only a common market that I voted for in 75, I think David Cameron’s timing and reasons for calling the referendum were suspect and selfish to say the least. I am though pragmatic and recognise that we were never going to get the easy deal we were promised by some. Unfortunately the EU has behaved as I feared it would in its arrogant high handed and at times disrespectful treatment of our Prime Minister. They are in no mood to compromise further, why should they, as they see a divided predominantly remain Parliament that has vowed not to allow a no deal Brexit. The recent, and unusually speedy ECJ ruling that the U.K. can withdraw Article 50 and remain a member with existing benefits is clearly part of their plan to get us to stay by pushing the people towards another vote or a General Election as they believe our media accurately reflects a change in attitude and that we will vote to stay. So far our Media and the majority of our MP’s have unwittingly colluded and played their part to a tee including now I am afraid my friend and our MP Nick. A no deal threat now is probably too late in the day but what else can we do if we are to get the Europeans to take us seriously and at the last minute offer some more concessions especially on the hated and humiliating back stop. They have a long history of 11th hour dealing.
For Nick to fall in line now with the likes of Anna Soubry and threaten (but not in so many words) to potentially bring down the government is not in my view patriotic but is sadly only an act of personal political suicide if indeed he were to actually go ahead and do it and I am sorry that he felt the need to make this threat at all – it is not helpful to the debate.
Response by Nick Boles MP
Since August I have held three meetings with members of the Grantham & Stamford Conservative Association to discuss Brexit. The most recent of these was 10 days ago. At each of these meetings I have made clear that I am not willing to countenance leaving the European Union without a deal. I have also asserted my firm opposition to a second referendum. It is because I believe it is essential that we leave the European Union on 29th March with a deal that I have been promoting Norway Plus as a Plan B, in the event that Theresa May’s deal is defeated.
Yesterday the Cabinet met to discuss preparations for a “no deal” Brexit. While I accept that it is prudent for government to plan for all eventualities, I was beyond horrified to learn that members of a Conservative Cabinet were actively promoting a so-called “managed no deal”. This is a dangerous myth. No Conservative should trifle with the livelihoods and security of the British people in the way that advocates of a “managed no deal” Brexit seem willing to do.
All Members of Parliament owe a duty to the country that is greater than their duty to their party. It is for this reason that I would feel compelled to resign the Conservative whip if at any point before 29 March government were to make a “no deal Brexit” the objective of government policy.
Two weeks ago I co-sponsored the Grieve amendment to the programme motion on the meaningful vote. This secured for MPs the right to amend any government motion in relation to our withdrawal from the EU. All the opposition parties joined 25 Conservative MPs including Sir Oliver Letwin and Sir Nicholas Soames in voting for the amendment. The government was defeated and it passed. I am proud of my role in this initiative and stand ready to work with MPs of all parties to assert our right to stop a disastrous “no deal” Brexit.
A government led by Jeremy Corbyn would be as damaging to the British people as a “no deal Brexit” and I will never do anything to make it more likely. The best way for the Conservative Party to keep Corbyn in opposition where he belongs is for Conservative MPs to vote for a Brexit deal and deliver the result of the 2016 referendum in a way that preserves the prosperity and security of the British people.