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Rebel MP Margot James quits Government in bid to block 'no deal' Brexit

By Peter Madeley | Stourbridge | Politics | Published:

Stourbridge MP Margot James has quit the Government after voting for a plan to stop a 'no deal' Brexit.

Margot James has quit her role as a digital minister

She had served as the minister for digital and the creative industries under Theresa May since January 2018.

Ms James, who backed Remain in the EU referendum, has previously threatened to resign unless a 'no deal' departure from the EU was ruled out.

She recently said she would not serve in a Government fronted by Boris Johnson, who is expected to be announced as the new Conservative leader next week.

Explaining her decision to the BBC, Ms James said: "Over the course of the last few months I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable about the way the rhetoric is developing on Brexit.

"My constituents voted to leave in Stourbridge by 70 percent, so I’ve honoured that commitment, voted for the prime minister’s deal three times, but when that didn’t get through parliament I became more and more worried that there is the potential to crash out with no-deal at the end of October.

"The fact that Boris Johnson – and he hasn’t won yet by the way but obviously he may – is not ruling out proroguing Parliament, I felt that this time that rather than just abstain I would vote for the amendments that will make it more difficult.

"A lot of people would be prepared to serve under Jeremy Hunt if he gets in. If we do end up with Boris as our Prime Minister, then I think quite a number of people who would have always been voting with the government will leave the government and will be doing everything they can with myself and others to make sure we leave with a deal, or we carry on negotiating or we look for another outcome.

"You have to remember that democracy isn’t just about the majority wins and has everything its way – especially when the minority is as big as 48 per cent, and also when a majority actually voted to remain in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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"So I think we have to treat the minority with more respect than proroguing parliament and clearing off without a deal – leaving us very exposed as an economy and a society and reliant on the United States at a very bad time."

Ms James was one of 17 Tories – along with Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy – who voted for an amendment aimed at stopping the Government suspending Parliament to force through 'no deal'.

(PA Graphics)

Other senior Conservative MPs abstained, including Mr Johnson's leadership opponent, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, as well as Chancellor Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke, and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart.

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Their efforts helped defeat the Government by 315 to 274, a majority of 41.

It follows growing speculation that Mr Johnson may attempt to suspend Parliament to stop MPs blocking 'no-deal' in a bid to stick to his campaign promise to deliver Brexit by October 31.

Critics of the process – known as prorogation – say it would be anti-democratic and have launched a series of measures in recent weeks aimed at stopping it from happening.

The latest amendment was put forward by Labour MP Hilary Benn and firms up earlier amendments made to the Northern Ireland bill designed to block prorogation, though it remains unclear whether MPs can legally stop it.

Following the result of the vote, Remainer MP Nick Boles, who quit the Conservatives over Brexit, said he was "proud" to accompany Ms James and Conservative MPs Steve Brine, Richard Harrington and Alistair Burt "through the aye lobby".

"Heroes all of them," he said.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer tweeted: "For Boris Johnson to try to shut down Parliament to force through a destructive 'no deal' Brexit would be a constitutional outrage. Now it would also be unlawful. A huge victory."

Northern Ireland minister John Penrose said the amendment was "pretending to be democratic while undermining the outcome of the referendum".

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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