Final Say: Ex-cabinet minister Lord Willetts says new Brexit referendum is 'common sense'
Peer warns against sacrificing economic success 'to fulfil the ideological obsessions of a small number of backbenchers'
Former Tory cabinet minister Lord Willetts has become the latest party figure to call for a fresh Brexit referendum, saying it is “good Conservative common sense” to hold a new vote.
The peer warned against sacrificing economic success “to fulfil the ideological obsessions of a small number of backbenchers”, in an attack on Eurosceptic hardliners led by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Lord Willetts, an ex-universities minister, joins a string of Tory MPs in publicly showing their support for a new vote, including former attorney general Dominic Grieve, Justine Greening, the former education secretary, and backbenchers Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston.
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“When the Conservatives returned to office in 2010, we made deficit reduction our number one economic priority,” Lord Willetts told The Evening Standard.
He said: “But plainly now the cost of servicing the national debt is being inflated by Brexit.
“No Conservative supporter voted to increase public spending in this way and that is why more and more Tories are backing a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.
“The Conservative Party’s electoral success is based on our long-term ability to deliver economic success and support wealth creation.
“We should not sacrifice that to fulfil the ideological obsessions of a small number of backbenchers in the ERG.
“Backing a people’s vote is good Conservative common sense, based on putting the national interest first at all times – the soundest of Tory doctrines.”
Elsewhere, a former minister told a fringe event that at least three government ministers privately support giving the public another vote
Dr Phillip Lee, who quit the government in June in order to speak out on Brexit, said he knew of other ministers who were “on the cusp” of resigning over the issue.
It comes on the eve of Theresa May’s major conference speech on Wednesday, where she will seek to unite her warring party after days of Brexit infighting.
Boris Johnson made a dramatic appearance at the event in Birmingham where he claimed her Chequers plan was a “constitutional outrage” that would leave the UK humiliated.
He won a thunderous standing ovation as he urged Tories to persuade the prime minister to “chuck Chequers” and return to the hard Brexit blueprint she set out at Lancaster House last year.
The prime minister declared herself “cross” with her former foreign secretary, accusing him of being ready to “tear up” her guarantee to Northern Ireland that there would be no customs border in the Irish Sea.
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