Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve have quit the Open Britain campaign group in protest at the pro-EU organisation’s decision to draw up a hit list of Tory MPs.
In a post on Facebook, the three former ministers said:
“As long standing Conservative Party members and MPs it is untenable for us to play any further role in an organisation, such as Open Britain, which is advocating campaigning against Conservative MPs or candidates. I and we will not be doing so.”
Open Britain today announced it would pour resources and activists into trying to oust Brexit-backing MPs at the general election.
Key ‘Leave’ supporters will be targeted in 20 constituencies while support will be given to 20 MPs who have spoken out against a hard exit from the EU since the referendum.
Tory MPs that will be targeted include Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa Villiers and Steve Baker.
However the list also includes Conservatives who supported the ‘Remain’ campaign, such as James Berry in Kingston and Surbiton, but are seen to have not been active enough in opposing Theresa May’s Brexit plan.
Morgan, Soubry and Grieve have campaigned vigorously since the referendum result for the UK to achieve as ‘soft’ a Brexit as possible. But today said they could not campaign against fellow Tory MPs in the run-up to June 8.
Open Britain is the cross-party successor organisation to the official ‘Stronger In’ Remain campaign and counts former Labour cabinet minister Lord Mandelson as a board member and former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg as a supporter.
A spokesman for Open Britain said: “It is understandable that during an election campaign, political differences between members of different parties become magnified.
“Open Britain represents activists from all political persuasions who want to campaign against a hard Brexit and for a continued close relationship with Europe.
“As a grassroots organisation, we’ve had thousands of emails from our supporters asking how and where they should campaign during the General Election and we are trying to direct them to where they can make the biggest difference in the fight against hard Brexit.
“The Government have made this into a Brexit election, so it would be surprising if Open Britain’s volunteers did want to get involved. There is no way of getting involved in an election like this, without campaigning for or against members of one party or another, so it was always going to disappoint some within a cross-party organisation.
“Our key seats list will continue to include support for those willing to campaign against hard Brexit from across the political spectrum.
It has been a pleasure to work with some fantastic Conservative MPs in recent months and our door will always be open after the election to any that want to work with us in the future.”
The Open Britain hit-list list in full:
|Constituency||Region||Party||Member of Parliament|
|Kensington||London||Conservative||Lady Victoria Borwick|
|Enfield Southgate||London||Conservative||David Burrowes|
|Oxford West and Abingdon||South East||Conservative||Nicola Blackwood|
|Bristol North West||South West||Conservative||Charlotte Leslie|
|Chipping Barnet||London||Conservative||Theresa Villiers|
|Kingston and Surbiton||London||Conservative||James Berry|
|Lewes||South East||Conservative||Maria Caulfield|
|Wycombe||South East||Conservative||Steve Baker|
|Chingford and Woodford Green||London||Conservative||Iain Duncan Smith|
|Sutton and Cheam||London||Conservative||Paul Scully|
|Belfast East||Northern Ireland||DUP||Gavin Robinson|
|Brecon and Radnorshire||Wales||Conservative||Christopher Davies|
|Hazel Grove||North West||Conservative||William Wragg|
|Thornbury and Yate||South West||Conservative||Luke Hall|
|Wells||South West||Conservative||James Heappey|
|St Ives||South West||Conservative||Derek Thomas|
|Eastbourne||South East||Conservative||Caroline Ansell|
The disintegration of the group came as Labour set out its Brexit strategy. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer today said Labour would ditch the Government’s negotiating plans for quitting the bloc.
A Bill to transfer relevant EU laws to Britain would also be replaced with legislation that would protect employment and consumer rights as well as environmental protections when powers are repatriated.
The party will insist that failing to reach a deal with Brussels is not an option and will promise to give Parliament a meaningful vote on the final agreement.