Ex-Tory MP Anna Soubry has claimed Theresa May has a “problem with immigration” on the same day she decided to quit the Tories to join parliament’s new Independent Group.
Soubry, who announced her resignation on Wednesday over the government’s stance on Brexit, told BBC Newsnight that the prime minister would not agree to the single market “because of the free movement of people”.
Soubry added: “And I think what’s really worried me about Theresa, and she has history in the Home Office that supports this – because I’m an old barrister, I look at the evidence – and I think she’s got a problem with immigration. I really, honestly do.”
Asked by presenter Kirsty Wark whether she meant a personal issue with immigration as opposed to one related to policy, Soubry replied: “Oh yeah, I think she just has a thing about immigration.
“And I don’t know where the hell that’s come from, because in a modern Conservative Party, when you again look at the evidence, if we don’t have all of these people that come and do all this work in our country, who on earth is going to do it?”
Soubry made the revelation as she explained a conversation she’d had with May concerning certain customs arrangements and their benefits for British business.
She told Wark: “I said to her ’I don’t understand. Why don’t you grasp the single market and the customs union? You know it’s what British business needs and you know it will solve the problem over the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland’.”
She said May “almost looked at me as if I was alien” and insisted the UK had to do its own trade deals.
A single market arrangement would see trade tariffs eliminated, as well as free movement of people, goods and services.
Soubry resigned alongside former Conservative colleagues Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston, citing the party’s “disastrous” handling of Brexit and shift to the right.
May has been criticised for overseeing “hostile environment” immigration policies during her tenure as home secretary, which included a controversial pilot of “go home” vans in 2013 which was eventually scrapped.
The policy came under the spotlight once again in the wake of the Windrush scandal last year.