Minister’s grave warning as poll shows more Tory voters now support PM’s deal with Brussels 15 min read

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Britain will witness a surge in neo-Nazi extremist groups if MPs block or weaken Brexit, a Cabinet minister warns today.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the 17million who voted to leave the EU would feel ‘cheated’ by any moves to water down Theresa May’s deal or thwart our exit entirely.

This would have grave implications for our democracy, he said, ending centuries of moderate politics.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling (pictured) said the 17million who voted to leave the EU would feel ‘cheated’ by any moves to water down Theresa May’s deal or thwart our exit entirely

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling (pictured) said the 17million who voted to leave the EU would feel ‘cheated’ by any moves to water down Theresa May’s deal or thwart our exit entirely

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling (pictured) said the 17million who voted to leave the EU would feel ‘cheated’ by any moves to water down Theresa May’s deal or thwart our exit entirely

Police outside Parliament this week were this week "briefed to intervene appropriately" if the law is broken after Tory MP Anna Soubry accused them of ignoring abuse hurled at politicians and journalists

Police outside Parliament this week were this week "briefed to intervene appropriately" if the law is broken after Tory MP Anna Soubry accused them of ignoring abuse hurled at politicians and journalists

Police outside Parliament this week were this week ‘briefed to intervene appropriately’ if the law is broken after Tory MP Anna Soubry accused them of ignoring abuse hurled at politicians and journalists

His warning came as a poll found the majority of Tory voters now want MPs to back the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal – with 55 per cent in favour, up eight points on last month, and 31 per cent against, down seven.

Labour support for the deal has also risen by eight points to 30 per cent, with 51 per cent opposed, six points down in the same period, according to the Survation survey. Overall the public is still against her deal by 41 points to 34, although the gap has more than halved. In other developments:

  • Two of the biggest donors to the Leave campaign said they now do not believe Britain will leave the EU at all;
  • Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned it is more likely than ever that MPs will try to block a no deal Brexit;
  • Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd declined three times to say she would stay in the Cabinet if Mrs May opts for no deal.

In a chilling intervention, Mr Grayling said blocking Brexit could end the 350 years of ‘moderate’ politics Britain has enjoyed since the bloody English Civil War.

Doing so would provoke more ‘nasty’ incidents such as this week’s ‘Nazi’ taunts at pro-Remain Tory MP Anna Soubry outside Parliament, he argued.

It would also play into the hands of ‘disturbing’ extremists such as ex-English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson, who has been tipped to take over Ukip.

Brexiteer Mr Grayling, one of Mrs May’s closest Cabinet allies, also fired a warning to fellow Eurosceptic Tories.

Mr Grayling is one of Mrs May's (pictured) closest Cabinet allies. He has warned that 

Mr Grayling is one of Mrs May's (pictured) closest Cabinet allies. He has warned that 

Mr Grayling is one of Mrs May’s (pictured) closest Cabinet allies. He has warned that 

He said they will rue the day if they join forces with pro-Remain Conservatives and kill off the Prime Minister’s deal in Tuesday’s crunch Commons vote. 

He told the Mail: ‘People have to think long and hard about how they are going to vote. This is too important for political game-playing and I urge Conservative MPs who back Brexit and others to back the deal.

‘If not, we risk a break with the British tradition of moderate, mainstream politics that goes back to the Restoration in 1660.

‘MPs need to remember that Britain, its people and its traditions are the mother of Parliaments. We ignore that and the will of the people at our peril.’

Nearly 200,000 people died in the English Civil War, which resulted in a short-lived republic followed by the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Mr Grayling’s remarks came amid reports that Mrs May could lose next week’s vote by up to 200 votes.

But the Transport Secretary, who has known the Prime Minister for more than 20 years and led her successful Tory leadership campaign in 2016, praised her ‘Churchillian’ resilience.

He said: ‘Many people in history eventually succeeded just by keeping going, not giving up. ‘Keep buggering on,’ as Churchill said. The public can see she is determined and passionate and doing her best for the country.’

Mr Grayling stopped short of predicting riots if Brexit is weakened or reversed. But he added: ‘People should not underestimate this. We would see a different tone in our politics. A less tolerant society, a more nationalistic nation.

‘It will open the door to extremist populist political forces in this country of the kind we see in other countries in Europe.

‘If MPs who represent seats that voted 70 per cent to leave say ‘sorry guys, we’re still going to have freedom of movement’, they will turn against the political mainstream.’

The minister said reports Tommy Robinson could become Ukip’s next leader were ‘deeply disturbing’, saying he was just the kind of rabble-rouser who would use any attempt to stop Brexit to fan extremism. He suggested the abuse of Miss Soubry by supporters of Robinson in Westminster on Monday could be a taste of worse to come.

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‘There’s already a nastiness and unpleasantness in our politics, more people with extreme views, more people willing to behave in an uncivilised way,’ he said.

Several European countries, including Germany and Greece, have seen violent protests by neo-Nazi anti-immigration parties. In recent weeks France has seen a series of riots provoked by the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement, which has been hijacked by political extremists.

May is thrown a lifeline as poll shows public support for her Brexit deal has GROWN among Tory and Labour voters 

Theresa May was thrown a lifeline last night after a poll showed public support for her Brexit deal has grown among both Tory and Labour voters.

The number of Conservative supporters who want MPs to back her deal has risen to 55 per cent – up eight points in five weeks. Meanwhile the proportion against it has fallen by seven points to 31 per cent, according to a survey for this newspaper.

Some 30 per cent of Labour voters also think MPs should support her deal, a similar eight point increase, with 51 per cent against.

The number of Conservative supporters who want MPs (Theresa May is pictured) to back her deal has risen to 55 per cent – up eight points in five weeks

The number of Conservative supporters who want MPs (Theresa May is pictured) to back her deal has risen to 55 per cent – up eight points in five weeks

The number of Conservative supporters who want MPs (Theresa May is pictured) to back her deal has risen to 55 per cent – up eight points in five weeks

But the Survation poll is further evidence of the huge task Mrs May faces in rescuing her deal, which seems set for defeat in the Commons on Tuesday. Overall, it is still opposed by 41 per cent to 34 per cent of the public, although opposition has fallen by nine points since December.

Worryingly for Mrs May, Labour has also taken a three-point lead over the Tories with the Conservatives on 38 to Labour’s 41.

But the poll – which questioned 1,013 adults on Thursday and yesterday – shows that despite lacking enthusiasm for the Prime Minister’s deal, voters appear to prefer it to the prospect of leaving the EU with no deal at all. 

Given a straight choice between Mrs May’s offer or ‘no deal’, 41 per cent support her deal, compared to 32 per cent who back ‘no deal’. Tory voters’ support for the Prime Minister contrasts with other recent surveys, which have shown Conservative Party members oppose her deal.

The Survation poll is further evidence of the huge task Mrs May faces in rescuing her deal

The Survation poll is further evidence of the huge task Mrs May faces in rescuing her deal

The Survation poll is further evidence of the huge task Mrs May faces in rescuing her deal

Even if her deal is thrown out by MPs next week, voters want her to produce an alternative ‘Plan B’ instead of leaving the EU without any agreement with Brussels, the poll found. A total of 44 per cent favour a ‘Plan B’ – seen by most as likely to offer a ‘softer’ Brexit – with 32 per cent in favour of ‘no deal’.

Mrs May was furious when rebel Conservative MPs defeated her in the Commons this week, joining forces with Labour to force her to produce a ‘Plan B’ in just three days if she loses on Tuesday. But the public backs the rebellion by 42 per cent to 35 per cent – and they also support Speaker John Bercow’s decision to allow it.

The survey offers other crumbs of comfort for Mrs May. Asked who they trust to handle Brexit, 34 per cent chose the Prime Minister, with 21 per cent for Mr Corbyn.

She defeats Boris Johnson on the question of who is ‘best to handle Brexit’ by a margin of 34 per cent to 20 per cent. In another blow to Brexit hardliners like Mr Johnson who advocate ‘no deal’, when voters were asked to choose between that and staying in the EU, ‘Remain’ won by 46 to 41 per cent.

The survey also provides fresh evidence of the deeply-conflicted views that Brexit has provoked in the public. A total of 45 per cent say Mrs May should resign if she is defeated, with 39 per cent in favour of her staying on.

But Tory voters have not given up on her. An overwhelming 66 per cent say she should carry on in No 10 if she loses on Tuesday, with only 26 per cent in favour of her stepping down.

A total of 26 per cent of the public say she is ‘bad’ for EU negotiations, with just 21 per cent stating she is ‘good’. But far more, 37 per cent, say whether she stays or goes will make little difference to Brexit.

Brexit ‘may not even happen’: Biggest Leave donors give up on Brexit ever happening as Jeremy Hunt fears ‘paralysis’ if deal is rejected 

Two of the biggest donors to the Leave campaign say they have given up on Brexit ever happening.

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Billionaire Peter Hargreaves and veteran hedge fund manager Crispin Odey do not believe Britain will end up leaving the European Union amid the deadlock in Parliament.

It came as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned yesterday that it is more likely than ever that MPs will work to block the UK leaving without a deal.

Billionaire Peter Hargreaves (pictured) and veteran hedge fund manager Crispin Odey do not believe Britain will end up leaving the European Union amid the deadlock in Parliament

Billionaire Peter Hargreaves (pictured) and veteran hedge fund manager Crispin Odey do not believe Britain will end up leaving the European Union amid the deadlock in Parliament

Mr Odey, who donated more than £870,000 to pro-Leave groups, said that while he does not believe there will be a second referendum, he does not think Brexit will take place either

Mr Odey, who donated more than £870,000 to pro-Leave groups, said that while he does not believe there will be a second referendum, he does not think Brexit will take place either

Billionaire Peter Hargreaves and veteran hedge fund manager Crispin Odey do not believe Britain will end up leaving the European Union amid the deadlock in Parliament

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned yesterday that it is more likely than ever that MPs will work to block the UK leaving without a deal

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned yesterday that it is more likely than ever that MPs will work to block the UK leaving without a deal

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned yesterday that it is more likely than ever that MPs will work to block the UK leaving without a deal

Mr Hargreaves, who gave £3.2million to the Leave campaign, said: ‘I have totally given up. I am totally in despair, I don’t think Brexit will happen at all.’

The co-founder of investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown added: ‘They [pro-Europeans] are banking on the fact that people are so fed up with it that they will just say, “Sod it, we will stay”.

‘I do see that attitude. The problem is when something doesn’t happen for so long you feel less angry about it.’

Mr Odey, who donated more than £870,000 to pro-Leave groups, said that while he does not believe there will be a second referendum, he does not think Brexit will take place either.

‘My view is that it ain’t going to happen,’ he said. ‘I just can’t see how it happens with that configuration of Parliament.’

Rudd won’t say if she would remain in a no-deal Cabinet 

Amber Rudd yesterday declined three times to say she would stay in the Cabinet if Theresa May opts for a no-deal Brexit.

The Work and Pensions Secretary, who backed Remain during the 2016 referendum campaign, said on Radio 4’s Today she was ‘committed’ to ensuring that the UK does not leave the EU without a withdrawal deal.

Amber Rudd (pictured) yesterday declined three times to say she would stay in the Cabinet if Theresa May opts for a no-deal Brexit

Amber Rudd (pictured) yesterday declined three times to say she would stay in the Cabinet if Theresa May opts for a no-deal Brexit

Amber Rudd (pictured) yesterday declined three times to say she would stay in the Cabinet if Theresa May opts for a no-deal Brexit

Miss Rudd said it was ‘right’ for the Government to make preparations for no-deal, but did not think the outcome ‘would be good for this country’. 

Pressed for a third time by interviewer Justin Webb on whether she would quit if Mrs May went for the no-deal option, Miss Rudd cut him short, saying: ‘Thank you very much, Justin.’ 

But asked again later whether she would resign, following a speech on welfare in south London, she said: ‘I am committed to making sure that we get the Withdrawal Agreement through next week.

‘I have been in and out of Cabinet and I find you have more influence in Cabinet.’

Meanwhile it emerged that former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has received more than £23,000 from Tory election guru Sir Lynton Crosby, in a sign that he may be considering a potential leadership bid.

Mr Hunt yesterday warned of ‘Brexit paralysis’ if MPs vote down Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday, potentially meaning the UK does not leave at all.

In an appeal for Tory MPs to get behind the deal, the Foreign Secretary said the past week has shown they cannot rely on no-deal being the default outcome if the agreement fails to pass.

He said Commons Speaker John Bercow has shown that he is ‘willing to frustrate the Government at every opportunity’, and it was not possible for the minority Tory administration to control what happened in Parliament.

Mr Hunt told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think Parliament is very committed to try to stop no-deal, but I think we have to recognise that there is a deal on the table, it does broadly deliver the Brexit people voted for, and if we don’t find a way to get this through, we are taking some very big risks. Brexit paralysis potentially leading to no Brexit is something I think would be incredibly damaging for the long-term future of this country.’

Referendum gamble that paid off… but not for city traders

City traders may be paid the big bucks, but it’s gamblers who saw Brexit coming first.

A study has found that those who placed bets on the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum got the Leave result right at around 3am on June 24. 

But it took traders in the City an hour longer to figure it out, potentially losing them millions of pounds.

Based on figures from online gambling firm Betfair, the odds shifted from Remain to Leave between 10pm and 3am.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge suggest traders may have been in a ‘bubble’, making them less able to predict real voters’ intentions.

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It should have been possible to predict the Leave victory at 1am based on election results from regions across Britain.

Mrs May is expected to spend the weekend in talks with Brussels over last-minute concessions ahead of the Commons vote.

She is also set to speak to more trade union and business leaders in a desperate bid to rally support.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday said that ‘every effort’ must be made ahead of Tuesday’s vote to avoid no-deal, which he said would be a ‘catastrophe’ for both sides.

But he said the EU was only willing to offer ‘clarifications’ on the agreement and this should ‘not be confused with a renegotiation’.

It is expected there could be an exchange of letters between the EU and UK on Monday with reassurances about how the backstop to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland could only be a temporary arrangement. Downing Street last night dismissed claims that Brexit could be delayed until after March 29 as there is not enough time to pass the necessary legislation.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve yesterday said that if MPs reject Mrs May’s deal, the Government should immediately strike the date from legislation before asking the EU for an extension of the two-year Article 50 process.

Meanwhile, in a rare boost for Mrs May, former Labour minister Jim Fitzpatrick said he was close to supporting her deal.

The Poplar and Limehouse MP told the Commons: ‘At some point we need to recognise the danger of no-deal is still there and the only real alternative on the table is the Prime Minister’s deal.’

Conservative MP George Freeman, who announced on Thursday ‘with a heavy heart’ that he would back the agreement, yesterday said he expected as many as 40 other critics to do the same.

THERESA May’s expected Brexit defeat next week is likely to lead to some ministers calling for Britain to stay in a permanent EU customs union. Associate Editor Jack Doyle explains what this could mean 

What is the customs union?

The customs union is a trade agreement between EU states who agree not to impose tariffs on each other’s goods as they cross borders. They also apply the same tariffs on imports from countries outside the customs union.

What are its advantages?

Staying in the customs union – or forming a new customs union after Brexit – would mean the UK could continue to trade tariff-free with other EU states and goods would, by and large, circulate freely. It would dramatically reduce border checks at Dover and other ports and would also go some distance to solving the problem of keeping an open Northern Ireland border.

And the disadvantages?

Britain would be unable to cut tariffs with the rest of the world – or negotiate its own trade deals with third countries. It would not regain its seat at the World Trade Organisation and the idea of an independent trade policy – and significant new deals with the US, China and Japan – would be impossible. Brussels would be able to offer access to the UK market as part of trade negotiations with third countries, without the UK having a veto.

Who wants to stay in?

Labour’s policy is to form a new customs union with the EU. But party leader Jeremy Corbyn also wants a say in negotiating trade deals – widely seen as an impossible demand. Cabinet ministers who backed Remain, including Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Chancellor Philip Hammond, have urged Theresa May to consider permanent membership of a customs union if her deal falls through – in the hope of winning over Labour MPs.

Could that get the deal through?

In theory there is a majority for a customs union in Parliament, but moving in that direction would break one of the Prime Minister’s red lines and she would be deeply reluctant to take such a step. Equally, it is unclear how many Labour MPs would support the deal even with a customs union attached. Mr Corbyn could say the deal still fails one or other of his tests and whip his MPs against it – or make other demands. On the other side, moving towards a customs union could cost Mrs May Tory MPs’ support and lead to resignations of Cabinet Brexiteers.

What would the EU say?

If the UK wanted to reopen the deal to put customs union membership on the table, the EU could make new demands of the UK. To achieve frictionless trade, the UK might also have to accept EU regulations applying to goods. Might Brussels then say this ‘high-alignment’ Brexit means the UK must accept free movement of people as well?