Brexit dubbed 'Death Star of politics' as Norfolk and Waveney MPs weigh in on prime minister's future
PUBLISHED: 12:34 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:43 26 March 2019
A Norfolk MP has described Brexit as the “Death Star of politics” as he admitted: “I’m an elected representative of 76,000 people and I don’t know what’s going on.”
The comments were made by Mid Norfolk Conservative MP George Freeman, after he posted tweets saying it was “all over” for Theresa May over the weekend.
Mr Freeman said today: “I don’t think there was ever a coup. There are many of us in the backbench party very frustrated that the Cabinet is completely split and briefing against each other.
“If they can’t unite behind Theresa May, then they should have the guts to find somebody they can unite behind. Brexit is like the Death Star of politics. I always feared it would be like this.
“It’s destroying and soaking up all the prime minister’s room for manoeuvre and political goodwill. I was simply saying if that’s where we are, if the price we have to pay is to change to get a solution to this, then so be it.
“I’ve never known this country so divided, so angry and in such a dangerous state. I think we’re close to civil unrest. This is not politics as normal.
“I think one of the extraordinary things about Brexit is it’s made spectators of all of us. I’m an elected representative of 76,000 people and I don’t know what’s going on.”
Ahead of Monday’s indicative votes, Mr Freeman told this newspaper: “After two and half years, the PM now has four days to her March 29 deadline. We must find a solution to this Brexit crisis which has gridlocked Government and divided the country for too long.
“I will continue to vote for the PM’s Brexit Withdrawal deal. But if it continues to be blocked by hardline Brexiteers voting with the opposition I believe we must reach out and deliver a cross-party Brexit with Northern Labour MPs in leave voting constituencies”.
It comes as Mrs May is facing a battle to hold on to power as MPs seek to seize control of parliamentary business in a bid to secure a softer Brexit, while some of her own backbenchers openly discuss her removal as prime minister.
But Keith Simpson, Conservative MP for Broadland, said there was little point in Mrs May resigning.
“I think there are quite a lot of MPs thinking it’s time for a change. But she has no intention of resigning,” he said. “Her one characteristic is her determinism or stubbornness. The only way she will go is if she decides to give up or if there’s a major cabinet revolt.”
And he said while Mrs May’s cabinet had been speaking to the press, there had been little action on their threats.
He felt Mrs May would continue if she “kept her head down” and questioned how long a leadership contest would take.
“I don’t think we can just anoint someone again,” he added.
Mr Simpson, who said he had known David Lidington for a number of years, said he had “no desire to be prime minister”.
“He made that perfectly clear a few weeks ago to colleagues,” he said.
Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney, also felt she should hang on.
“There’s lots of speculation,” he said. “But my own view is we’re right in the eye of the storm at the moment, for the Conservative Party to throw the leader overboard would be the height of irresponsibility.”
Mr Aldous said the time would come where questions over Mrs May’s leadership would be appropriate, but said that time was not now.
He said: “In the summer months time, there will be time to take stock of the situation and in a civilised way - if that is at all possible - have the discussion.”
Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth and also Conservative Party chairman, said: “The prime minister is focused on delivering on the referendum to leave the EU and to do so with a deal and in an orderly manner.
“That is the right approach which I fully support and will continue to work on delivering too.”
Meanwhile, the European Commission warned a no-deal Brexit on April 12 is becoming “increasingly likely”.
In its statement, the European Commission said it had completed its preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit, but warned it would nonetheless cause “significant disruption for citizens and businesses”.
If it crashes out without a deal on April 12, the UK will not benefit from a transition period to new arrangements, but will immediately be subject to checks and tariffs on its exports to the EU, while “significant delays” can be expected at the borders, said officials.
Following an oral statement from the PM updating them on the decision reached at last week’s EU summit to extend the Brexit negotiation period beyond March 29, MPs are due to vote on a proposal to force a series of indicative votes on alternatives to her Withdrawal Agreement.
Defeat for the government on Monday night over the plan - tabled in an amendment by former ministers Sir Oliver Letwin and Dominic Grieve and Labour MP Hilary Benn - would be a further humiliation for Mrs May.
The proposal seeks to pave the way for a series of indicative votes in the Commons on Wednesday, effectively taking control of the Brexit process out of the hands of the government.
What do you think?
Linda Scott, 55, from Long Stratton, said: “I don’t think she should resign, I think the focus is on the wrong issue just as the defence secretary said this morning, it should be on the policy and not on who is actually trying to implement it.”
John Burkhill, 66, from Felmingham, said: “I personally don’t think [she should resign] because she’s doing a good job. She’s having to deals with the Europeans and the government and she’s doing the best job she could, I don’t think anybody could do any better.”
Elliot Folan, 24, from Norwich, said: “She should absolutely resign, she should’ve resigned as soon as she was appointed prime minister because she’s a Conservative. But she should resign right now because A she’s negotiated a Brexit deal that no one else wants, B she’s continued to impose austerity on Britain and destroyed its economy and destroyed its public services, C she’s a Conservative so she should always resign anyway, and D she’s incredibly incompetent.!
Christine Soren, 32, from Cromer, added: “I don’t know why there is pressure for her to resign when clearly no one wants to do her job. I think it’s one big political circus and politicians need someone to blame, and they’re blaming her because she’s the prime minister. But let’s see anyone who would like to take over.”