UK Conservative member of Parliament and prominent "Remain" supporter Anna Soubry has threatened to abandon the party unless Prime Minister Theresa May stems the influence of "Hard Brexiteers" in her Government who have become increasingly vocal about their concerns that Britain may remain closely aligned with the European Union even after it leaves.
Speaking of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and MP Jacob Rees-Mogg Ms. Soubry said, "They are not Tories, they're not the Tory Party that I joined forty years ago and it's about time Theresa stood up to them and slung them out, because they taken down Major, they took down [former Prime Minister David] Cameron, two great leaders, neither of whom stood up to them and the time has come for the moderate centrists in the Conservative Party, dare I use the expression, to take control of our party and make it the centrist, sensible, moderate, one-nation party that its voters and I think its members are."
The threat by a leading former cabinet minister to quit the Conservative Party and possibly set off a chain-reaction of Remain politicians following suit has compounded already-existing fears in both major parties as they attempt to balance the increasingly polarized wings of their support bases.
On December 12 a group Conservative MPs led by Dominic Grieve, the head of the Security and Intelligence Committee rebelled against the Prime Minister to demand Parliamentary scrutiny of any final divorce agreement between Britain and the European Union.
A rare polling study of the attitudes of Parliamentary members released in January revealed stark differences between the Brexit positions of both major party leaders and their MPs. Conservative MPs in particular were found to be overwhelmingly opposed to continued freedom of movement with the EU even during a transition period as well as Britain remaining subject to the European Court of Justice, contradiction to what they saw as Theresa May's softening stances toward Brussels.
Narrowing Support Base
In making her ultimatum, Anna Soubry claimed the Conservatives face massive electoral losses at the next general election if plans for a so-called "Hard Brexit" are implemented. However, of those who voted in favor of "Leave" during the 2016 EU membership referendum, 61 percent were regular Conservative voters according YouGov polling.
Of those Leave voters, 74 percent also favor a "Hard Brexit" scenario which would involve leaving the EU Single Market and the Customs Union as well as ending the freedom of movement that is a requirement for membership. Such a complete split would enable the UK to pursue independent trading arrangements with other major economies which it is currently restricted from doing as a member of the Customs Union. Only 39 percent of the public at large however support such a sharp break with Europe.
Similar fears have been raised by members of the Labour Party about voters, particularly in London abandoning the party for not trying to prevent Brexit from happening. This is despite the Leave vote typically being most pronounced in northern areas of England that were home to the Labour party's working class base.