05/02/2018 16:35 GMT

Minister Insists Tory Party Is Not Run By 'Extreme Right-Wing Cabal'

Caroline Nokes says government is delivering what voters want on Brexit.

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A minister has denied the Conservative Party is being controlled by an “extreme right-wing cabal” over Brexit.

On Monday, Caroline Nokes, the newly appointed immigration minister, was dragged to the Commons to explain why the government had delayed publication of its immigration white paper.

The document, first due to be published last summer, is a key staging post in the formation of a post-Brexit immigration policy for the UK. 

Labour MP Clive Efford said ministers were unable to publish the document as early as planned due to internal-party pressures.

“Aren’t we in this situation because we have an extreme right-wing of the Tory party who are extreme Brexiteers and have formed a tail that is wagging the Tory dog,” he said.

Nokes told him: “I’m not sure how I should respond to being called a dog.

“There is no extreme, right-wing cabal controlling the Tory party. It’s actually about making sure we deliver on what the British people voted for in 2016.”

The minsiter’s comments came amid turmoil within the Tory party over Theresa May’s leadership and her Brexit strategy.

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Last week, Conservative MP Anna Soubry launched an outspoken attack on “hard Brexiteers” on the Tory benches who she said would “not hesitate to destroy this party” in order to get what they wanted.

And today Soubry said the prime minister did not have a mandate to leave the customs union as Downing Street has proposed.

“We lost our majority in June when the British people rejected a no customs union hard Brexit,” she said.

This afternoon Michel Barnier warned the prime minister’s decision to leave the EU’s customs union will cause “unavoidable” barriers to trade.

The European Union’s chief negotiator visited Downing Street for talks with May and Brexit Secretary David Davis in which he pushed for greater clarity about the UK’s approach to the next phase of the process.

His visit to London came as Number 10 ruled out remaining in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

Barnier said that “without a customs union and outside the single market”, barriers to trade in goods and services “are unavoidable”.