- Brexit Delivery Group, newly launched by Cameron confidant Nick Boles, seeks a pragmatic approach to Brexit.
- Meanwhile, the European Research group are preparing for a busy recess, trying to promote newer MPs like ex-Conservative Vice Chair Ben Bradley.
- Three more Tory MPs are anticipated to join the People’s Vote campaign soon, albeit not immediately.
- However, insiders believe a change of mood in the parliamentary party is dependent on Damian Green and Amber Rudd.
LONDON – The EU referendum result and Theresa May’s struggles to agree a strategy for honouring it, has left the Conservative party in its most fractious state for decades.
In recent weeks May has suffered a series of resignations from her frontbench, growing numbers of backbench rebellions in the Commons and the prospect of an outright vote of no confidence from her parliamentary party.
Amidst the discord, a series of groups have emerged who are all battling to influence what happens next.
Here are the main groups vying for control of the Conservative government and its strategy for Brexit.
The Brexit Delivery Group
The Brexit Delivery Group is a new group of Conservative MPs which seeks to “give the Prime Minister and Government the peace to operate” and is set to be fully rolled out after recess. The group is a mix of those, such as David T. C. Davies and Andrew Percy, who voted for Leave, and Nick Boles and Simon Hart who voted for Remain.
With reportedly over twenty MPs signed up, the BDG are looking to ensure the UK leaves with a deal in March 2019, with the potential for nuanced issues to be dealt with in the transition period.
The group seeks to distinguish themselves from those on “the extremes” of the debate, and provide a voice for the “quiet and unassuming middle ground” of the Conservative Party, according to one senior figure in the BRG, who said the group oppose the “creation of new red lines only months before Brexit negotiations end”.
The BDG have been in early talks with rebels, seeking to persuade them to end partisanship in favour of pragmatism. Soft Brexiteers like Stephen Hammond and Nicky Morgan are believed to have been in discussions with the group.
Rumours persist that more Conservatives are set to join the People’s Vote campaign, with Amber Rudd, Antoinette Sandbach and Nicky Morgan being named as MPs who are likely to join the campaign. Morgan, the former Education secretary, has been mentioned by insiders as a future supporter of a People’s Vote since Easter, when initial plans for a media rollout were being formulated.
When approached by Business Insider for comment, both Morgan and Sandbach denied that they were about to join the People’s Vote Campaign. This sentiment was echoed by a source in the Open Britain, campaign who said that while they were working on securing their support, an announcement was not yet imminent.
Sandbach is currently a member of a group of Tory soft Brexiteers informally led by Stephen Hammond, of which around a dozen other MPs are members. Chiefly looking to counteract the influence of Jacob Rees-Mogg and the European Research Group, positioning in the group varies significantly, from vocally Remain MPs like Ken Clarke, to MPs who those who take a more nuanced position such as Tom Tugendhat.
European Research Group
The ERG is the most vocal of all the groups battling for control of the Brexit process. Led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ERG is fiercely anti-EU and is effective at using the media to get its message across. An even more increased media presence is planned over recess, with former Minister for No Deal Steve Baker having planned a media grid, designed to demonstrate a wider breadth of support amongst MPs. The group is keen for a younger and more diverse range of spokespeople with Ben Bradley and Priti Patel mentioned as figures set to appear in the media more in the coming months.
While numbers as high as eighty have been floated as the membership figure for the ERG, the number of committed members is probably closer to 40. MPs such as Glyn Davies and Paul Scully have often been cited as members who might want to keep the pressure on the Government but these are hardly partisan or factional figures, and would struggle to sign up to some of the more hardline rhetoric of Nadine Dorries or Andrea Jenkyn.
The “paramilitary Brexiteers”
There’s another group of hardline Brexiteers, described by Sam Coates recently in The Times as “Paramilitary Brexiteers”. With Andrew Bridgen and Phillip Bone amongst their members. This group of half a dozen or so MPs are much more outwardly aggressive to May, with Phillip Davies and Andrew Bridgen having put their letters in to trigger a vote of no confidence in May already.
Overall, insiders are keen to play down the mutual exclusivity of these factions, and the partisanship within them. For example, Foreign Affairs Select Committee Chair Tom Tugenhat has been a part of pro-Customs Union campaigns, but has never rebelled against the Government.
Other Tory Brexit insiders highlight Amber Rudd and Damian Green as figures to watch regarding Brexit movements within the Conservatives.
Despite both resigning in disgrace, Rudd and Green were senior ministers under May, and duly supported her Brexit policy when in the Cabinet. If that were to change now, it would signify a new front in the Brexit battle within the Conservative party.
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