Jeremy Lefroy - I won't be a Brexit rebel
Furious Jeremy Lefroy has insisted that he has no plans to block Brexit as he claimed his efforts to scrutinise key legislation proved his loyalty to his constituents.
The Stafford MP was branded a 'Brexit mutineer' for reportedly planning to join forces with Labour and vote against enshrining the date of Brexit in UK law.
But speaking exclusively with the Express & Star, pro-Europe Mr Lefroy said it was 'completely ridiculous' that he was trying to frustrate the Brexit process.
He said Theresa May's plan to set in law a fixed date for Brexit was 'unnecessary' because the leave date had already been determined by Article 50.
Mr Lefroy also said he was certain that Brexit would happen –and that the UK could make a success of it – but he warned that the consequences of the vote to leave the bloc were 'already being felt'.
"To give the idea that I am trying to frustrate or block Brexit is completely ridiculous. That is absolutely not the case," he said.
"If i had wanted to do that I would have voted against Article 50 and against the second reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill.
"I am committed to ensuring there is the least amount of disruption as we leave the EU.
"Am I being disloyal to my constituents, whose jobs I am trying to protect? Disloyal to the NHS which has less money as we grow slower? The same applies to education.
"I'm trying to ensure that we have money for schools, for hospitals and that our businesses are able to thrive.
"I believe that I am being loyal to the interests of my constituents, both in terms of their jobs in the private sector and in terms of the public services that are paid for out of tax revenue which will reduce if we don't have the right level of economic growth."
Mr Lefroy, an accountant who lives in Keele, campaigned for Remain in the EU referendum, which saw 56 per cent of people in Stafford vote to leave the bloc.
This week he voted with the Government to convert EU law into domestic law on the UK's exit from the EU.
In September he was 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.
Asked if he would vote against enshrining the Brexit leave date of March 29, 2019, in law, Mr Lefroy said: "My personal view is that we have already said in Article 50 when we are leaving so I don't think it is necessary.
"Let's say there was almost a deal, but it wasn't quite done. Are you going to throw the whole thing completely up in the air for the sake of a few hours? It has been made quite clear that we are leaving two years after Article 50 was triggered.
"You have already got that in law. In my view there always has to be some small view of flexibility in case the negotiations need it.
"It would be completely ridiculous to send the country over a cliff edge because of a few hours here and there.
"I think the Government recognises that and will no doubt clarify what its intentions are.
"Equating that [my view] with the idea that people are trying to stop the UK from coming out of the European Union is disgraceful."
Mr Lefroy said that he was sure that Brexit will happen, but added: "That doesn't mean to say that it won't be extremely difficult.
"We have to get it sorted out very quickly. We can't prevaricate. If we are coming out we have got to create certainty for businesses, because it has real consequences for the everyday lives of my constituents.
"We have got to get on with this in a way that keeps businesses in Britain and enables us to continue to trade with whoever we can.
"That's my sole aim; to ensure that there is the least possible disruption to the UK as we come out of the EU.
"There will be some damage. The question is, are people and businesses in the UK prepared to put the hard work in to make it a success?
"We are going to feel the cold winds of international competition, international protectionism in a stronger way than we have up to now.
"I hope we have the ability to deal with that."
He added: "During the referendum I raised concerns that we would begin to grow more slowly, which has happened. I said that people would need to have certainty about trade.
"I did say there would be consequences and those consequences are beginning to be felt."
Tory divisions over Brexit were laid bare in the Commons this week during the debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill, with some pro-Europe Tory MPs condemning the Government's plans.
Eurosceptic Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash, who represents Stone, said it was wrong for any MP to attempt to 'disrupt the Brexit programme'.