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Tory revolt was avoidable, says rebel Stephen Hammond

UK News | Published:

The Wimbledon MP said there was “dismay” on both sides that the situation ended up as it did.

Stephen Hammond was sacked as Conservative vice-chairman after backing the rebel amendment (Anthony Devlin/PA)

One of the Tory rebels who inflicted an embarrassing defeat on Theresa May over the Government’s Brexit legislation has said the backbench revolt was avoidable.

Stephen Hammond said there was “dismay” on both sides that the situation ended up as it did, with 11 Tories rebelling to inflict the Prime Minister’s first significant Commons defeat.

The Wimbledon MP was sacked as Conservative vice-chairman after backing the rebel amendment calling for Parliament to be guaranteed a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal.

In comments which will focus attention on chief whip Julian Smith’s management of the situation, Mr Hammond suggested the revolt could have been avoided.

“I think, frankly, last night was avoidable and there is dismay on all sides that it got where it did,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

Mr Hammond insisted: “Nothing that happened yesterday stops Brexit, nothing that happened yesterday actually undermines the Prime Minister in any way.”

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Defending the rebel amendment he said: “During the campaign last year I thought one of the key tenets of the campaign was that Parliament had sovereignty.

“What we did last night was to ensure that – not giving great new powers to ministers, not saying that Parliament can’t have a say, but saying that Parliament can have a say.”

Mr Hammond said he had “no intention of rebelling again” but indicated he could be prepared to oppose the Government’s attempt to fix the Brexit date of March 29 2019 in law when that comes before the Commons next week unless ministers back down.

Result of the House of Commons vote on amendment 7 to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.
(PA Graphics)

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He said: “I think that many people will view that proposition as unnecessary, it’s probably not a good way to negotiate – in the type of negotiations that we are in – because under the Article 50 process there is some flexibility at the end for about a month or so if there needs to be some further elongation.

“That’s a week to go in negotiations in terms of whether that’s going to be put to the House of Commons and whether it’s really necessary. People will take their view at the time.”

Mr Hammond was stripped of his party role after last night’s vote.

“It’s within the Prime Minister and the chief whip’s gift,” he said. “If they decide as a result of last night they no longer want me to do what I’m doing, that’s their decision.”

In a sign of the bitter divisions in Tory ranks over Brexit, backbencher Nadine Dorries called for the rebels to be deselected.

In response, Mr Hammond said: “I make it a cardinal rule never to be rude about my colleagues in public and I’m not going to start now.”

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