Two Conservative MEPs stripped of party whip

08-Oct-2017 @ 09:00

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Two Conservative MEPs stripped of party whip

Two Conservative MEPs who voted to block progress in Britain's Brexit talks have been stripped of the party whip.

South West and Gibraltar MEP Julie Girling and South East MEP Richard Ashworth were suspended from the Conservative Party last night after supporting a resolution at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to block Brexit talks moving forward.

Conservative delegation leader Ashley Fox said: "It is extremely regrettable that two Conservative MEPs chose to vote in this way. They left the party no choice but to act."

Brexit Secretary urges action from other party leaders

Brexit Secretary David Davis has now written to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urging him to remove the whip from 18 Labour MEPs who also backed the European Parliament's controversial vote. He has also written to Lib Dem leader Vince Cable.

In his letter to Mr Corybn, Mr Davis states: “This non-binding vote by the European Parliament sends a signal about the importance each side attaches to agreeing a future partnership. The Conservative Party therefore instructed our MEPs to vote against the motion and in favour of the UK’s national interest, and have removed the whip from those who refused to do so.

“While I would not expect opposition political parties to agree with us all the time about the end state we seek, it is a self-evident part of the national interest to support a discussion about our future relationship with Europe.

“So I was disappointed that 18 Labour MEPs voted against moving the negotiations onto the next stage. Will you follow suit and take action against the MEPs from your party who voted against the best future for the UK and the EU, or is this the official position of the Labour Party?"

Whip removed from MEPs backing resolution to delay Brexit talks

The whip was removed following consultation between European Parliament Chief Whip Dan Dalton and Downing Street.

It comes after the two Conservative MEPs backed a resolution in the European Parliament last Tuesday that would stop Brexit talks moving onto trade discussions. Although the vote is advisory, support for the resolution seeks to delay progress despite signs of renewed momentum in the wake of the Prime Minister’s Florence speech.

The resolution, calls for trade talks not to begin until Britain makes major concessions over Northern Ireland, the divorce bill and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). It calls for the ECJ to “remain the sole and competent authority for enforcing and interpreting European Union law and the withdrawal agreement” for millions of European citizens living in the UK.

It also calls for Northern Ireland to remain within the Customs Union and single market and insists “substantial progress” be made on the financial settlement “before entering into discussions on other issues”

In his letter to the two MEPs, Chief Whip Mr Dalton states: “The Brexit negotiations are the most important negotiations our country faces and reaching a new partnership with the European Union is in the interests of both the UK and the EU.

“The resolution by the European Parliament sought to delay progress in the negotiations between the UK and the EU by holding back talks on the future relationship. It also proposed that one part of the UK, Northern Ireland, could remain in the single market and customs union, while the rest of the UK departs - which is not acceptable.

“Given the seriousness of this issue, and your failure to discuss your intention to vote against the agreed position of the Conservative delegation in advance, I am therefore writing to inform you that I am suspending the Conservative whip from you until further notice.”

Mr Ashworth, a former group leader, and Mrs Girling, a former Chief Whip, broke ranks with the 21 strong group of Conservative MEPs to back the resolution, tabled by Guy Verhofstadt.

They were joined by 18 of Labour's 20 Euro MEPs, the only Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru and Sinn Fein MEPs and one of the Green's two Brussels parliamentarians.

A Government source said the suspension had been backed by Downing Street because the MEPs had defied the Whip and had behaved “totally irresponsibly”.

He said: “Regardless of how you voted in the referendum, it is surely in everyone's interests – both in Britain and in Europe – that talks can progress on trade and our future relationship.”

The Parliament vote is advisory but will give a boost to those in Brussels hoping to delay progress on Brexit negotiations. It was passed by 557 votes to 92, with 29 abstentions.


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