News | World News | Constituents of Tory Remainer who quit rather than back Brexit blast him

Constituents of Tory Remainer who quit rather than back Brexit blast him

Popular Articles

  • Justice minister Phillip Lee has dramatically resigned over handling of Brexit
  • The departure comes as Theresa May faced knife-edge votes on flagship EU Bill
  • Dr Lee said he wanted to voice his opinions on 'how Brexit is being delivered' 
  • The resignation will be particularly stinging as he is a close friend of Mrs May 

By James Tapsfield and Charlie Bayliss For Mailonline

Published: 15:55 EDT, 12 June 2018 | Updated: 16:13 EDT, 12 June 2018

  • e-mail

View
comments

The Conservative MP who resigned from the Government to rebel over Theresa May's handling of Brexit has been labelled untrustworthy by his own constituents.

Dr Phillip Lee stepped down as Justice Minister, citing his belief for another Brexit referendum and that he felt the need to 'speak up for my constituents' - despite Bracknell voting 53 per cent in favour of leaving the EU.

Residents in his constituency reacted in disgust today following news of his resignation. 

Martin Lewis, aged 32 years, said: 'I can't understand why he's stepped down. He's there to represent the British people - who voted to leave the EU.'

The charity shop volunteer added: 'We can't trust politicians anymore, they just aren't looking out for normal people.

Phillip Lee was applauded by Remainers in the Commons (pictured) as he said politicians had a duty to protect the public from doing things that harmed society - such as when parliament banned capital punishment
Phillip Lee was applauded by Remainers in the Commons (pictured) as he said politicians had a duty to protect the public from doing things that harmed society - such as when parliament banned capital punishment

Phillip Lee was applauded by Remainers in the Commons (pictured) as he said politicians had a duty to protect the public from doing things that harmed society - such as when parliament banned capital punishment

'I voted for Brexit because this country has lost its identity but the people in Parliament are trying to stop it from happening,' he said.

Derek Ferguson, aged 51 years, said that he thought that the timing of his MPs resignation was damaging for the public.

The former publican said: 'I'm not racist but we need to look out for our own country. The NHS is falling apart and we need to take back control of our own laws.'

The intervention in the Commons came after Dr Lee resigned as justice minister
The intervention in the Commons came after Dr Lee resigned as justice minister

The intervention in the Commons came after Dr Lee resigned as justice minister

However not everyone in Bracknell was as outraged over Dr Lee's resignation as Brexit voters.

Carer Val Harle, aged 68 years, said that she was happy that the former GP took the decision so that he could look out for his constituents .

'I once wrote to him directly, as my drains were blocked and the council was doing nothing to help me,' she said.

'After months of complaining I wrote directly to Dr Lee, and within days my drains were fixed. It's a bittersweet feeling to see him having resigned,' she added.

Retired friends Eileen Killiestin, aged 75 years and Eileen Perkins, aged 73 years, said that Dr Lee was a popular figure in the local community.

The pair agreed that Brexit was bad for the country and added that it was 'fantastic' he had stepped down but they admitted that the timing did not benefit anyone.

The betrayal will have been a particularly stinging betrayal as Dr Lee is one of Mrs May's few close friends in politics, and she is said to have attended his wedding. They are pictured together in 2012
The betrayal will have been a particularly stinging betrayal as Dr Lee is one of Mrs May's few close friends in politics, and she is said to have attended his wedding. They are pictured together in 2012

The betrayal will have been a particularly stinging betrayal as Dr Lee is one of Mrs May's few close friends in politics, and she is said to have attended his wedding. They are pictured together in 2012

Dr Lee dramatically announced his decision as the Brexit negotiations reach a critical point 
Dr Lee dramatically announced his decision as the Brexit negotiations reach a critical point 

Dr Lee dramatically announced his decision as the Brexit negotiations reach a critical point 

The former social services worker and retired nurse moved to Bracknell from Ireland recently and said that Dr Lee was well thought of in the community.

Despite criticism from some, Dr Lee remained adamant that he had made the right decision.

He said he quit so that could 'look his children in the eye and say I did the best for them.'

His resignation was deemed a severe blow to Mrs May's hopes to align her party over Brexit negotiations. 

Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street today) is struggling to overturn a slew of amendments passed by peers to the EU Withdrawal Bill
Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street today) is struggling to overturn a slew of amendments passed by peers to the EU Withdrawal Bill

Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street today) is struggling to overturn a slew of amendments passed by peers to the EU Withdrawal Bill

Earlier today, Dr Lee compared Brexit to the death penalty today after betraying Theresa May by dramatically quitting the government.

Dr Lee was applauded by Remainers as he said politicians had a duty to defy public opinion over issues that harmed society - such as when parliament banned capital punishment.

The intervention in the Commons came after Dr Lee resigned as justice minister saying he could not 'look his children in the eye' and support the way Brexit is 'currently being delivered'. 

He also insisted he wanted to 'speak up for his constituents' - even though Eurosceptics pointed out his Bracknell seat voted 53 per cent to Leave in the referendum and the local party chair criticised his move. 

After a Government concession meant Mrs May avoided defeat on a crucial amendment, Mr Lee tonight said his resignation was justified - even though he never voted against the PM's orders. 

The resignation, announced live on stage during a speech in London, heaped pressure on Mrs May just hours before a series of knife-edge votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

It will have been a particularly stinging betrayal as Dr Lee is one of the premier's few close friends in politics, and she is said to have attended his wedding. 

Dr Lee turned the screw by speaking in the Commons debate this afternoon, saying he was 'devastated' to have to quit, but adding: 'I believe that there is growing evidence which shows that the Brexit policy our Government is currently pursuing to deliver on the 2016 referendum is detrimental to the people we were elected to serve.'

Dr Lee added: 'Sometimes when a majority of people want something that is against the good of society, government and parliament have a responsibility to protect us.

'This was the case for the death penalty, where for decades politicians went against the majority view and refused to restore it.

'Now I believe it has got to be the case for the Brexit process.' 

Tory former minister Anna Soubry intervened in the speech to congratulate him, and fellow Conservative Sarah Wollaston said it was a 'courageous decision'. 

The resignation is a massive blow for Mrs May, who this morning gathered her Cabinet in No10 ahead of the Commons showdown. 

Conservative rebels, Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems hailed the departure as a 'principled' stand.

But Downing Street tried to play down the impact, saying: 'His resignation is a matter for him and we thank him for his service.'  

Dr Lee urged fellow Tory MPs to back a push for a 'meaningful' vote on any final Brexit deal in the Commons - and said there should be a second referendum.

He said: 'If, in the future, I am to look my children in the eye and honestly say that I did my best for them I cannot, in all good conscience, support how our country's exit from the EU looks set to be delivered.'  

What has Dr Phillip Lee said on Brexit previously?

Phillip Lee  dramatically quit as justice minister to speak out against the Government's plans for Brexit.

Here is what he has said about Britain's withdrawal form the EU previously:

June 2016:

Dr Phillip Lee, who voted Remain in the referendum, warns of' challenging times ahead' after Leave wins the vote.

October 2017:

He warns that young voters find the looming departure as 'toxic' as Donald trump's proposed wall with Mexico.

He said: 'It's about the virtual signalling of essentially being closed off to the world, because for most young people the world is just 'Amazon', it's just 'there', and it seems retrograde to being seen to be putting up barriers. It's like Trump's wall.

'So, single market access or not, I don't think is what young people are talking about. I think what this is about is closing off, turning away from Europe, and also having controls on migration.'  

31 January 2018:

Breaks ranks with his Government colleagues to warn that their Brexit strategy should be driven by 'evidence not dogma' in a series of Twitter posts.

He was responding to an article which said that leaked  Government analysis shows that Britain will be worse off outside the EU under every scenario modelled. 

He wrote on Twitter:  'But if these figures turn out to be anywhere near right, there would be a serious question over whether a government could legitimately lead a country along a path that the evidence and rational consideration indicate would be damaging.'

He added: 'It’s time for evidence, not dogma, to show the way. We must act for our country’s best interests, not ideology & populism, or history will judge us harshly. Our country deserves no less.'

He was given a ticking off by Tory whip Julian Smith and 'reminded it is better to express such views in private in future'.     

Brexiteers complained that Dr Lee was actually defying his own constituents - and the chair of his local party suggested he might face the risk of deselection.

Delivering his bombshell at a Bright Blue event in London today, Dr Lee said: 'I believe that the evidence now shows that the Brexit policy our government is currently pursuing, on the basis of the 2016 referendum, is detrimental to the people we are elected to serve.

'Certainly it now seem inevitable that the people economy and culture of my own constituency will be affected negatively.

'And I cannot ignore that it is to them that I owe my first responsibility as a member of Parliament.' 

Dr Lee - who had reportedly not even told his wife what he was planning to do - also called for another national ballot on Brexit.

'When the Government is able to set out an achievable, clearly defined path - one that has been properly considered, whose implications have been foreseen, and that is rooted in reality and evidence, not dreams and dogma - it should go to the people, once again, to seek their confirmation,' he said. 

Chris Boutle, chair of the Bracknell Conservative Association, said Dr Lee's move would 'count against him' if an election was called.

'The constituency voted for Leave and although there are a few very enthusiastic Remainers, the majority of his party certainly wants to leave,' he told the Telegraph.

'A number of those who voted for remain are now prepared to accept the democratic decision and leave.'

Tory backbencher Simon Clarke told MailOnline: 'MPs gave the British people the right to make this decision and they voted to leave the EU - including Philip Lee's own constituents in Bracknell by some 53 per cent.

'In my experience, whether people voted to leave or remain, they want us to get on with the job of delivering Brexit and are much more interested in our future after Brexit than they are in trying to refight the referendum or overturn the result.' 

Senior Tory Nigel Evans added: 'Bracknell folk voted out by a greater margin than the UK - we all stood on a manifesto only a year ago to deliver brexit and that is what the people now expect.

'We must not weaken the PMs hands in her discussions with Brussels so I hope Philip backs Theresa in the lobbies over the next two days despite any personal reservations he may hold.'

In fresh signs of Tory infighting, former minister Nick Boles took a swipe at David Davis for his threats to resign over the Brexit 'backstop' last week. 

Mr Boles insisted he did not agree with Dr Lee on holding a referendum, but admired his 'honesty and integrity'. 

'So much classier to resign on principle when nobody is expecting it, than to threaten resignation but never follow through,' he said.

Meanwhile, resident in Dr Lee's constituency of Bracknell, Berkshire residents reacted with fury to his decision to quit.  

Martin Lewis, aged 32 years, said: 'I can't understand why he's stepped down. He's there to represent the British people - who voted to leave the EU.'

The charity shop volunteer added: 'We can't trust politicians anymore, they just aren't looking out for normal people.

'I voted for Brexit because this country has lost its identity but the people in Parliament are trying to stop it from happening,' he said.

Derek Ferguson, aged 51 years, said that he thought that the timing of his MPs resignation was damaging for the public.

The former publican said: 'I'm not racist but we need to look out for our own country. The NHS is falling apart and we need to take back control of our own laws.'

However not everyone in Bracknell was as outraged over Dr Lee's resignation as Brexit voters. 

The Prime Minister's has spent the day trying to save her flagship Brexit legislation after the Lords imposed a slew of amendments.

The threat of catastrophic defeat for Mrs May seemed to have receded after Tory rebels agreed to put off a showdown over whether Britain should stay in a customs union with the EU.

But ministers had to make more concessions over demands for parliament to be given a so-called 'meaningful vote' on any final Brexit deal.

The Lords had insisted that Parliament be put in charge of negotiations if MPs did not accept the terms sealed with the EU, effectively undermining Mrs May's position. 

Phillip Lee announced his resignation live on stage at a think-tank event in London today (pictured) with Theresa May facing a series of knife-edge votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill later
Phillip Lee announced his resignation live on stage at a think-tank event in London today (pictured) with Theresa May facing a series of knife-edge votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill later

Phillip Lee announced his resignation live on stage at a think-tank event in London today (pictured) with Theresa May facing a series of knife-edge votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill later

Boris Johnson was all smiles as he arrived for the weekly Cabinet
Boris Johnson was all smiles as he arrived for the weekly Cabinet
Brexit Secretary David Davis was at the Cabinet meeting today
Brexit Secretary David Davis was at the Cabinet meeting today

The resignation came as ministers including Boris Johnson (left) and David Davis gathered for a Cabinet meeting in Downing Street 

Tory Remainers including Antoinette Sandbach hailed the decision by Dr Lee to resign in protest at the government's Brexit policy
Tory Remainers including Antoinette Sandbach hailed the decision by Dr Lee to resign in protest at the government's Brexit policy

Tory Remainers including Antoinette Sandbach hailed the decision by Dr Lee to resign in protest at the government's Brexit policy

Downing Street insisted this morning that it would not accept a compromise tabled by former Cabinet minister Dominic Grieve, which would force the government to come up with a new strategy in the event of the Brexit deal being rejected, and put that to MPs again for approval.

But this evening solicitor General Robert Buckland promised rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve his plans to effectively rule out a no deal Brexit would be the basis of talks as soon as tomorrow - but only if he called off a revolt in the Commons tonight.

What are the 15 Brexit wrecking amendments passed by peers

Here are the 15 Brexit Bill defeats inflicted by peers:

  1. Forces minsters to try to seek a customs union with the EU
  2. Keeps EU law relating to employment, consumer and environmental protections
  3. Keeps the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
  4. Removes right of ministers to challenge EU law kept by the UK
  5.  Allows Britons to bring legal cases when their rights, enshrined in EU law, are flouted
  6. Limits the scope of the Government's so-called Henry VII powers 
  7. Gives Parliament a meaningful vote at the end of talks
  8. Gives parliament a veto on the Government's negotiating position 
  9.  Ministers must report on what they are doing to ensure refugee families reunited within Europe
  10. Ministers must abide by 1998 Good Friday Agreement
  11. Reaffirms that the UK can keep EU laws and stay in EU agencies
  12. Gives parliament a veto on the exit day
  13. Ministers must try to keep the UK in the EEA and therefore the EU single market
  14. Extends how EU laws will be trawled through by Parliament 
  15. Enshrines EU environmental protections

Mr Buckland appeared to concede to Mr Grieve's central demand for a Commons vote either if the Government decides to walk away from talks without a deal, or if there is no deal by November 30.

The concession will not be finalised until the legislation returns to the House of Lords in the coming days or weeks.

But the offer appeared to have been enough as rebels signalled they were prepared to back down for now. 

Passing the amendment would have meant a major shift away from the UK's existing constitutional settlement - which gives the executive powers to negotiate treaties.

Dr Lee was was slapped down by Downing Street in January after breaking ranks to express concern about the economic impact of Brexit on the UK.

The comments came after a leaked government document suggested Britain would be worse off under every Brexit scenario.

Dr Lee said 'evidence, not dogma' should dictate the Government's approach to Brexit. 

But No10 said Dr Lee had been spoken to by chief whip Julian Smith and 'reminded it is better to express such views in private in future'.   

David Davis this morning stepped up warnings that Britain's negotiating leverage would be seriously damaged if key amendments were not overturned.

Last night Mrs May delivered a direct warning to backbench Tory MPs that any defeats would encourage Brussels to turn the screw. 

Former education secretary Nicky Morgan, a leading Remainer, indicated she would support Mrs May in tomorrow's vote on an amendment designed to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU.

Mrs Morgan said she would back a compromise plan – with the words 'customs union' being replaced with 'customs arrangements' – adding that it would help 'buy time' for the Prime Minister ahead of a crunch Brussels summit at the end of this month. 

The fudge was put together by another former minister, Oliver Letwin.  Asked whether the deal was 'kicking the can down the road, Mr Letwin said: 'That is a very sensible thing to do.'

The big moments will come this afternoon – when MPs debate calls for Parliament to be given a so-called meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal – and tomorrow, when they debate the customs union.    

In fresh signs of Tory infighting, former minister Nick Boles took a swipe at David Davis for his threats to resign over the Brexit 'backstop' last week
In fresh signs of Tory infighting, former minister Nick Boles took a swipe at David Davis for his threats to resign over the Brexit 'backstop' last week

In fresh signs of Tory infighting, former minister Nick Boles took a swipe at David Davis for his threats to resign over the Brexit 'backstop' last week

Chief Whip Julian Smith has been scrambling to put the numbers together to overturn Lords amendments to the Brexit Bill
Chief Whip Julian Smith has been scrambling to put the numbers together to overturn Lords amendments to the Brexit Bill

Chief Whip Julian Smith has been scrambling to put the numbers together to overturn Lords amendments to the Brexit Bill

Dr Lee said he was 'incredibly sad' but was stepping down to voice his opinions on 'how Brexit is currently being delivered'
Dr Lee said he was 'incredibly sad' but was stepping down to voice his opinions on 'how Brexit is currently being delivered'
Mrs May could yet accept a compromise tabled by former Cabinet minister Dominic Grieve (pictured), which would force the government to come up with a new strategy in the event of the Brexit deal being rejected, and put that to MPs again for approval
Mrs May could yet accept a compromise tabled by former Cabinet minister Dominic Grieve (pictured), which would force the government to come up with a new strategy in the event of the Brexit deal being rejected, and put that to MPs again for approval

Dr Lee said he was 'incredibly sad' but was stepping down to voice his opinions on 'how Brexit is currently being delivered'

What are the Brexit Bill amendments MP are discussing and why are they important?

Over the next two days MPs will be voting on the EU Withdrawal Bill - commonly known as the Brexit Bill

The legislation facilitates Britain's withdrawal from the EU and is one of the most important pieces of legislation debated by Parliament.

Over today and tomorrow Theresa May faces one of the toughest tests of her premiership so far as she tried to navigate the legislation through a series of knife-edge votes. 

What are the Brexit Bill amendments being debated by MPs over the coming two days?

There are 15 Brexit Bill amendments which are being voted on by MPs in a crunch two-day Commons showdown.

The House of Lords drew up the changes when they debated the Bill last month because they want to change the way the Government is negotiating Brexit.

Changes being voted on include proposals to try to keep the UK in the EU single market and customs union in a move which would mean the UK would have to keep free movement.

Brexiteers say the changes are wrecking amendments designed to thwart Brexit and bind the Government's hands in the talks.

Theresa May has scrambled to try to bargain with Tory rebels to ensure they don't revolt against her in the knife-edge votes.  

What are the most important amendments ?

There are two crucial amendments which the Government feared it would face defeat on.

The first, debated today, was to give MPs a 'meaningful vote' on the Brexit deal. This would effectively have allowed MPs to seize of the negotiations if Theresa May failed to reach a deal by December.

The second is an amendment to try to force the UK to seek to stay in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

Mrs May has explicitly ruled this out as it would effectively stop Britain from being bale to negotiate its own trade deals with other countries.   

What happened this evening?   

The PM narrowly avoided a humiliating rebellion on the amendment demanding a meaningful vote by making a last-ditch concession to Tory rebels.

No10 promised MPs they will get a vote on the Brexit pans in November, or if the Government walks away from negotiations.  It remains unclear at this stage what significance this vote will have

Mrs May also managed to thrash out an eleventh hour agreement with some Tory rebels on the customs union amendment.

Brokered last night, it calls for ministers to seek a customs agreement with the EU - not a union. The change is far more than one of just language as it effectively means the UK can seek to set up different trade deals outside the Brussels bloc.

This amendment is being voted on tomorrow, and it remains to be seen if it has succeeded in peeling enough would-be rebels away from the revolt.

But the issue has just been kicked down the road as Remainers have said they will mount a fresh push to try to keep the UK in a customs union with  Brussels when the Trade and Customs Bills come to Parliament next month  

What does that means for Theresa May?  

The picture is mixed.

After weeks of speculation Mrs May could face two humiliating defeats in the Commons on the Bill - dealing her a heavy blow in the middle of Brexit talks - it looks like she has avoided all out defeat in the Commons.

But it appears she has been forced to make a major concession to Tory rebels by giving MPs a vote on the Brexit deal later this year. 

She has another battle on her hands when the issue of the UK's customs arrangements with the EU returns to parliament for debate next month. 

What happens next? 

If the PM is successful at axing all of the 15 Lords amendments from the Bill and replacing them with her own then the Bill goes back to the House of Lords on Monday.

Peers will then get the chance to agree with them, or reject them and send them back to the Commons for debate. This back and forth, known as 'ping pong' continues until both Chambers agree. 

 Here are the crucial amendments being voted on:

MEANINGFUL VOTE:

Remainers have been fighting to ensure that they are not left with a choice between accepting whatever package the government thrashes out with the EU, or crashing out without any deal.

The government has already committed that there will be a vote on the terms reached with Brussels.

But the amendment passed by the Lords would effectively give parliament power to dictate subsequent talks if it rejects the deal.

That would be a major break from the existing constitutional position - which gives the executive control over negotiating treaties.

Tory MP Dominic Grieve has put forward a compromise amendment that would force ministers to come up with a new plan, and then put that before parliament for approval.

However, government sources have insisted they will not accept the plan.

CUSTOMS UNION: 

The Lords amendment orders ministers to 'outline' to parliament how they will negotiate to 'continue participating in a customs union' after Brexit.

The idea is that it would force Mrs May to change approach and keep the UK lashed to the bloc - although the effect would be largely political is unclear as it would not be binding.

Ministers appear to have delayed a confrontation with Tory rebels by tabling a compromise amendment that would commit the government to seeking a customs 'arrangement'.

EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA:

The Lords inserted this demand for the UK to stay in the EU single market against the wishes of both the Tory and Labour front benches. 

It spells out that the government should be seeking a Norway-style deal with the EU - potentially meaning free movement would stay in place. 

This amendment has no chance of surviving in the Commons. However, Jeremy Corbyn is facing a major rebellion by his MPs, dozens of whom have called for EEA membership to be retained after Brexit. 

BREXIT DATE:

The government has specified the date of Brexit as March 29, 2019 - as laid down by the Article 50 process.

But Remainers would like to see the date taken out of the Bill to make it easier to extend negotiations if a deal is not reached.

Tory rebels are not focused on this change and it would not be mission critical for the government, but ministers are expecting to avoid defeat. 

Advertisement

Most watched News videos

MOST READ NEWS

View All

MOST WATCHED NEWS VIDEOS

By Shawn Arnette 12/06/2018 16:13:00