Conservative former Cabinet minister Lord Heseltine has penned a polite but stinging rebuke to Theresa May after he was sacked as a Government adviser for rebelling over Brexit - reminding the PM she was once pro-EU too.
The 83-year-old ex-deputy Prime Minister was last week among 13 Conservative peers who voted to give Parliament final approval on the deal the UK secures when quitting the bloc.
The amendment was stripped out of the ‘Brexit Bill’ when it returned to MPs and has not affected the legislation that paves the way for Article 50 to be triggered by the end of the month.
Lord Heseltine, who has long been avowedly pro-EU, has now written to the Prime Minister to make plain he “disagrees” with the sacking.
And in the killer final line, the peer reminds the PM that she too campaigned to Remain in the EU last year: “The simple fact is you have changed your mind ... I have not.”
The simple fact is you have changed your mind since the excellent speech you made in the Referendum campaign arguing we should remain in the European Union. I have not. Lord Heseltine to Theresa May
Here’s the key passage of the letter:
“You say in your letter I will understand the necessity to end that relationship. Here we disagree. In the referendum campaign it was recognised that so deeply held and so divided were the views on both sides that members of the Cabinet and other ministers were free to argue and vote against the government’s European policy without sanction.
“In my speech I made clear that my vote neither held up nor denied your ability to trigger Article 50. Indeed the urgency by which we heard so much in the time seems in the event to be diminished. My only vote was designed to give the House of Commons a second chance to enshrine in law a commitment you yourself had already given to allow Parliament a vote on any Brexit deal. The Commons declined the advice of the Lords and most Peers accepted the position.
“I have repeatedly said you have every right to end my relationship with the government. The simple fact is you have changed your mind since the excellent speech you made in the Referendum campaign arguing we should remain in the European Union. I have not.”
The peer was asked to help the Government with plans to restore deprived estates under David Cameron and he also worked with George Osborne on plans for east London.
He advised on plans for a Swansea city deal and has been working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
During the debate, Lord Heseltine said Parliament should be “the ultimate custodian of our national sovereignty”, suggesting MPs should get a veto on Brexit. He said:
“I do not accept that the mandate for Brexit runs for all time and in all circumstances.
“The 48 per cent have the same right to be heard as those who voted for Brexit.”