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Lefroy defends Brexit bill stance as Tory divisions deepen

By Pete Madeley | Staffordshire | Brexit | Published:

Jeremy Lefroy has insisted that the Government's landmark EU withdrawal bill must be changed to curb ministerial powers as Tory divisions over Brexit deepened.

Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy

The Stafford MP, who voted Remain in the EU referendum, is one of eight Tories to back amendments put forward by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, aimed at blocking ministers from pushing through Brexit legislation without consulting Parliament.

He has also proposed that the UK should re-join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) during the transitional period, a move he says would be 'a pragmatic and sensible approach' to leaving the union.

However, his views have been challenged by Conservative MPs calling for a clean break from the EU.

Sir Bill Cash branded the amendments 'contrary to the spirit of the bill'.

The Stone MP said that in its current form the bill would 'ease Britain's exit from the EU' and added: "This is a bill that does the job of regaining our sovereignty, which is in line with what people voted for in the first place."

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said the country was entering a period of 'trench warfare' where Remainers were attempting to 'stop Brexit at any costs'.

He said the bill was vital to translate EU law into Britain's statute books and insisted that the Government had taken steps to restrict its powers to 'minor tinkering' with the wording of legislation.

Mr Fabricant also criticised proposals to join EFTA, which he described as 'too restrictive' for the UK.

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"We are a big enough power to find our own deal," he said. "It is early days in the leaving process and we should not try and paint ourselves into a corner."

In Stafford, 56 per cent of people voted to leave the EU.

Mr Lefroy said that MPs needed assurances that major changes to legislation were 'properly dealt with by Parliament and not just ministerial diktat'

"By voting for the EU Withdrawal Bill we all voted for what the referendum said, but it is our duty as parliamentarians to scrutinise legislation and I am determined to do that," he said.

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Mr Lefroy added that joining EFTA would enable Britain to continue to trade 'in a relatively frictionless and tariffless environment' while we are out of the EU.

The chairman of Stafford Conservative Association, Ann Foster, said she supported Mr Lefroy's position.

The EU Withdrawal Bill passed through the Commons at its second reading by a majority of 36 votes.

Mr Grieve's amendments, which have also been backed by Kenneth Clarke, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, will be debated when the bill returns to the Commons next month for eight days of line-by-line scrutiny.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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