LONDON — Anna Soubry, a former Conservative minister and one of the party's most anti-Brexit MPs has threatened to quit the Tories if Prime Minister Theresa May "sides with the hardliners" in the party over leaving the EU.
Writing for the Mail on Sunday, Soubry — who served as Minister of State for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise under previous PM David Cameron — argues that the Conservative Party could split down the middle unless May takes counsel from the "wise owls" within her cabinet.
"Mrs May must waste no time in taking on the ‘Hard Brexiteers’ and making it clear that she sides with responsible Cabinet Ministers – such as Chancellor Philip Hammond – who appreciate that we need a sensible Brexit transition period to avoid plunging this country headlong into an economic nightmare," Soubry writes.
"In other words – the wise owls should be ruling the roost."
May must stand up to the so-called "ideologues" within the Tories, or risk further alienating the large proportion of the parliamentary party that wanted to stay in the European Union and now want a softer Brexit with a long transition period, Soubry added.
"If the Prime Minister or her successor (in the event of Theresa standing down) is not prepared to confront the ideologues, I gravely fear that the party could split – and that would change Britain’s political landscape completely," she said.
Soubry's threats of a split in the Tories come on the same day that Chancellor Philip Hammond and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox attempted to quell any accusations of a divide within the government over the UK's approach to Brexit by publishing a joint column in the Sunday Telegraph.
In the article two of May's most senior ministers said that the UK will seek a transition deal for leaving the EU, but that any deal will not be a "back door" to staying in the bloc and would be limited in its time period.
"We want our economy to remain strong and vibrant through this period of change. That means businesses need to have confidence that there will not be a cliff-edge when we leave the EU in just over twenty months’ time," the pair wrote.
Soubry has a record of being outspoken when it comes to Brexit and in an interview with Business Insider last year, described the idea that Britain could leave the single market and arrange a better trade deal as "stuff of the fairies."
"I am beginning to wonder whether some of the people in charge of Leave actually understand the value of the single market," she said in October 2016.
"The idea that we will leave the EU and then negotiate some excellent free trade deal with the rest of Europe and not take the free movement of labour is the stuff of the fairies.”
Soubry also told the prominent left-leaning magazine the New Statesman in March that she would consider joining a new "moderate, sensible, forward-thinking" political party.
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