Senior MP Nick Boles has quit the Conservative party because it “refuses to compromise” on Brexit.
The former minister had been pushing a Norway-style Common Market 2.0 alternative Brexit plan, but it was rejected for a second time by MPs on Monday night by 282 votes to 261 in ‘indicative votes’ on different options.
Boles, who will now sit as what he called an “independent progressive alternative”, told the Commons after the result: “I have given everything to an attempt to find a compromise that can take this country out of the European Union while maintaining our economic strength and our political cohesion.
“I accept I have failed. I have failed chiefly because my party refuses to compromise.
“I regret therefore to announce I can no longer sit for this party.”
One MP could be heard saying: “Oh Nick, don’t go, come on” but Boles then walked out of the chamber.
Labour MP Lucy Powell, who had worked with Boles on the Common Market 2.0 plan, was seen running after him out of the room.
One MP told HuffPost UK that Boles was “in a bad way” after the votes.
Another reflecting on his battles with cancer said: “He’s had enough. He had that awful illness and it made him think what’s life really about. I admire him for that.
“Nick was obviously really upset. I think he thinks that as long as MV4 (another vote on May’s Brexit deal) is hanging over us then MPs will refuse to vote for the Common Market 2.0. And she’s refused to take it off the table.”
Meanwhile former minister Alistair Burt, who quit the government last week, said he did not know if he could follow Boles out of the door.
Asked “what percentage” of him was ready to follow Boles, he told Sky News: “I don’t know.”
Boles meanwhile received support from sitting minister Margot James.
She said: “Respect for Nick Boles you will be very much missed by many of us in the Conservative party.”
Independent Group MP Anna Soubry, whose coalition of Labour and Tory defectors is creating a new party called Change UK, said Boles would be welcome to join them.
Soubry, another former Tory, said Boles had been treated “extremely shabbily” by the party and his local association, who were threatening him with deselection, and that he was “fed up”.
She told ITV News: “There’d always be a place for someone like Nick Boles.
“He’s a remarkable man, he’s got a fine brain, I know he and I have got many shared values, I’d love him to come and join us.”