The UK prime minister defended her opponents’ right to speak out after rebels were branded ‘mutineers’ by a newspaper, sparking a political row.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has told MPs she hopes they can come together despite differences over Brexit. She expressed the hope at Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons.
The prime minister also defended the right of MPs to oppose her, amid a row over a newspaper article which has brought complaints of bullying and intimidation.
Fifteen potential Tory rebels were labelled “mutineers” in a controversial Daily Telegraph front page article, for “threatening to block her plans for Brexit in Parliament”.
All this comes amid an increasingly tense and heated atmosphere, as MPs from May’s own party are threatening to derail May’s move to get the precise date of Brexit enshrined in law.
“There is of course a lively debate going on in this place and that’s right and proper and that’s important,” the prime minister told MPs during Wednesday’s parliamentary session.
“And there are strong views held on different sides of the argument about the European Union, on both sides of this House. What we are doing as a government is listening to the contributions that are being made, we are listening carefully to those who wish to improve the bill, and I hope we can all come together to deliver on the decision that the country took, that we should leave the European Union.”
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) November 14, 2017
The Telegraph’s gallery of photos of the Conservative rebels under the headline “The Brexit mutineers” has provoked a backlash. The paper said even though all but one of the 15 had voted to invoke Article 50, triggering the UK’s departure from the EU, they were now “refusing legally to endorse the move” and threatening to join forces with the Labour opposition.
One of those named, former minister Anna Soubry, said it was a “blatant piece of bullying”. She told the House of Commons that following the article, her office had reported to the police several tweets issuing threats against her.
The government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill aims to incorporate all existing EU law into UK law to bring clarity and avoid a legal black hole on the day the country officially leaves the union – on 29 March 2019.
However, there have been hundreds of suggested changes and the government’s position is fragile, with a small majority in parliament only thanks to a deal with a small group of Democratic Unionist MPs.
Pro-EU backbench MPS fear that including the date of departure in law will tie Parliament’s hands and weaken the government’s negotiating stance as Brexit approaches.
You can watch PMQs in the player, below.