POLITICS
21/02/2019 15:26 GMT | Updated 21/02/2019 18:16 GMT

Exclusive: The Independent Group Could Prop Up Theresa May's Government In Return For A Referendum On Her Brexit Deal

Defecting Labour and Tory MPs could replace the DUP as confidence and supply partners.

The Independent Group of Labour and Tory defectors could prop up Theresa May’s government in a confidence and supply arrangement, a leading member has said.

This would include voting for any Brexit deal, if the prime minister put it to the public in a referendum.

Gavin Shuker told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast it would be “in the national interest” to provide stability through any public vote, which could take a year to arrange.

The group first made the offer in a meeting with the PM’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, last month.

Shuker and then-Labour colleagues Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna were present, alongside then-Tory Anna Soubry.

Lidington turned them down the offer, and all have now sensationally quit to join The Independent Group.

But Shuker suggested the option was still on the table if May backs the Kyle-Wilson amendment, which supports her deal if it is put to the public vote in a confirmatory referendum.

In return for a referendum with Remain on the ballot paper, The Independent Group (TIG) would support the deal and then prop up May’s government by backing her in no confidence votes and on budgets.

Shuker’s comments suggest the 11-strong TIG see an opportunity to replace the DUP’s 10 MPs as confidence and supply partners for May if she chooses to soften Brexit and abandons the Northern Irish party and hard Tory Brexiteers.

PA Wire/PA Images
The Independent Group could replace the DUP as May's confidence and supply partners

The Luton South MP told HuffPost: “I went into the Cabinet Office about a month ago when Theresa May was in full listening mode and sat down with David Lidington when I was a Labour MP and I said, look you can have my support to pass any deal you like on Brexit – it can be Norway, it can be Theresa May’s deal, it can be Canada, whatever you want you can have my vote.

“But at the end of it I want a confirmatory referendum.

“And do you know what? If you do that British politics is going to be shaken quite a bit if you get that through – I’m willing to extend confidence and supply to your government so it doesn’t fall over through the period of the referendum. If it’s a year, fine.”

He went on: “They obviously didn’t choose to go down that route.

“But if you are asking me about future hypotheticals about when the maths of parliament are so febrile, it comes down to – to use the cliche – doing the right thing by the country.”

He went on: “We need a general election like a hole in the head right now, we’re 900 hours to Brexit and we’re going to crash out without a deal unless something replaces that.

“I think the most sensible way forward is for the government to adopt what’s become known as the Kyle amendment because it would do exactly what I said before there.

“And in those circumstances I think the national interest would be served by seeing a period of stability to get that referendum done.”

A Labour source, said: “Offering to prop up a Tory government that has inflicted so much suffering on our communities is shameful.

“This grubby offer shows what the new establishment coalition really stands for – austerity, privatisation and the interests of the super-rich.”

Meanwhile, Shuker revealed that he was the cook when the Labour splitters held secret overnight meetings about the future of the party at the luxury Fair Oak Farm estate in Sussex last summer.

He said they went for two or three overnight stays and “sat around and talked about what’s the direction and the future”.

“That has been one of the most helpful things, we don’t do that in politics, we don’t ever take the time to genuinely listen to each other and eat and vent and just have a sense that you’ve got a responsibility and you’re going to have to figure it out because there’s no one else in the room,” he said.

“I did the cooking, I did a great little chicken and chicory dish, it was very nice.”