Tory Brexit ‘mutineer’ Paul Masterton has attacked his “happy-clappy” colleagues who cheer “like a seal” whenever leaving the EU is mentioned.
Masterton – one of 15 Tories dubbed a ‘Brexit mutineer’ by the Daily Telegraph – told HuffPost UK he was determined to hold the Government to account during the EU Withdrawal process, despite attacks from hostile media and fellow MPs.
The East Renfrewshire MP was put on the Telegraph’s front page as one of a group trying to stop the Government locking the date of Brexit into the EU Withdrawal Bill – a move which they believed weakened the UK’s negotiating hand.
The Government later offered a compromise that the date could be changed if needed.
Masterton said the infamous front page actually galvanized those under attack, and he now counts some of his fellow ‘mutineers’ among his closest friends.
Speaking to HuffPost UK as part of a series of interviews with MPs elected in the 2017 General Election, Masterton said: “My constituency is the highest Remain voting constituency held by a Conservative and that matters to me - I’m not flippant about that.
“I am not and have never been a Brexiteer.
“To me, respecting the will of the people isn’t about happy-clappy cheering like a seal every time someone says we’re leaving the European Union, it’s about recognising that yes we are leaving, but how are we going to do it.”
Masterton said his goal is not to frustrate the result of referendum, but with an estimated 74% of people in his constituency backing Remain in the 2016 vote he was determined to represent their views – regardless of “people being hostile to you who made careers out of rebelling against the Government on Europe.”
He said: “It’s about actually being prepared to stand and say: ‘Hold on, the way you are doing this, Government, you are not yet convincing me this is going to work for my people.’
“I’m not going to compromise on that as a principle otherwise what’s the point in me being here?”
Masterton was clear that while he would hold the Government to account on Brexit, he would not go so far as trying to bring Theresa May’s administration down.
He said: “I’ve always been very clear that whilst there are some people in the party who are very happy to go on the assault against Conservative Prime Ministers over Europe regardless of the consequences, I’m never going to do anything that is going to put us at risk of having a neo-Marxist in Number 10, which is far worse for the people of East Renfrewshire than anything you could imagine.”
Masterton revealed that it was the leader of Scottish Conservative, Ruth Davidson, who alerted him to the fact he was under attack from the Telegraph.
“I was back in the hotel and I got a text from Ruth Davison actually, and she said” “Your first front page national!’. I was like: ‘What?!’ and I went on Twitter and saw the front page and went ‘Shit!’
“It was hilarious because the whole way they designed the front page was ludicrous but also most of those people on that front page I’ve literally said two words to since I joined and now I count many of them among my closest and best friends.
“People like Tom [Tugendhat], Vicky [Fox], I get on very well with Heidi [Allen], I get on well with Bob Neill.
“Because it was so overdone and so unnecessary it kind of threw us together in a way we hadn’t expected.
“I think in some ways the reaction of a lot of the ministers when it came out was so supportive of us and hostile to the paper because I think they recognised that actually, hold on a second here, you’ve basically just as a newspaper backed 15 people into a corner by projecting people in this way.”
Despite forcing the Government to offer a concession on locking the Brexit date into law, Masterton does not believe he will be remembered as a rebel.
“It’s funny because I’ve not mutineered on anything yet,” he said.