24/01/2019 18:13 GMT

Decisive Election Victory Would Not Heal Tory Brexit Divisions, Party Deputy Chairman Warns

James Cleverly tells HuffPost UK a snap vote risks leaving Conservatives "in the same place as we are now”.

A snap general election would not solve the Brexit impasse as eurosceptic MPs would still be too powerful even if the Tories won a 40-seat majority, the party’s deputy chairman has said.

James Cleverly said the Conservatives were “always ready” for an early poll but stressed it would leave the party “in the same place as we are now” on Brexit.

He urged Tories to “grow up” and vote for Theresa May’s embattled exit deal, as it emerged that the European Research Group faction of hard Brexiteers were set to reject a key amendment which may have handed the prime minister a lifeline next week.

Appearing on HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast, Cleverly said a snap election simply postpones the choices MPs must make.

It comes amid ongoing suggestions that government and party figures are discussing the possibility of a poll, with parliament in deadlock.

Cleverly said: “I don’t think a general election would resolve things because the split isn’t on party lines.

“Let’s say I had the opportunity to wave a magic wand, we skip the messy getting votes and all that kind of stuff and jump straight to us having a 30-40 seat majority.

“Well it’s entirely feasible there would still be a range of opinions even in a majority government on this particular issue and we’d be in the same place we are now, which is having to grow up, grasp the nettle and vote through a set of proposals which work, even if they’re not exactly 100% what we personally would have put forward.

“I don’t think having an extra 20, 30, 40 MPs for one party or another would automatically resolve this issue.

“So I feel very strongly a general election is not a way out.”

However, asked if the party was ready for a snap poll, Cleverly quipped: “Born ready.” 

PA Ready News UK
Tory MP James Cleverly said the party was always ready for an election.

He went on: “We fight elections every year now, if it’s not local government elections which really matter it’s city mayoral elections, it’s devolved government, we fight elections all the time.

“I’m not giving away state secrets to say nobody wants a general election, as I say I’m not even sure it would resolve anything.

“But we are always ready.”

Meanwhile, a senior Brexiteer source revealed the ERG would not be backing an amendment put forward by former Tory minister Andrew Murrison next week to insert an end date into the controversial Irish backstop plan, describing it as a “government contrivance”.

The amendment has been tacitly backed by the government as a means of displaying potential support in the Commons for May’s deal if the EU were to concede to the UK a clear route out of the complex insurance policy to maintain a soft Irish border.

The PM could then have taken that show of support to Brussels to display how concessions could win MPs over to her deal.

Cleverly said that idea could “quite possibly” work, adding: “The easy thing to do is to say what you don’t like... but eventually we have got to come to a point where we agree on something.

“Andrew’s amendment could be a route to that, of course it’s not binding on the EU.”

However, the Brexiteer source said the record 230 vote defeat of the agreement last week was enough of a signal for Brussels to change tack

The source told HuffPost UK: “We’re opposed to Murrison, it’s a useless government contrivance. The EU got a signal, which you can put a number on: 230. We’re fairly confident they heard that signal.”