Theresa May defends Brexit approach amid threat of more defections

Prime Minister Theresa May has tried to prevent further resignations from the Conservative Party over her handling of Brexit, inviting two disaffected MPs to Downing Street and defending her approach in a letter to three former Tories who quit on Wednesday.

Theresa May. Picture: WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prime Minister Theresa May has tried to prevent further resignations from the Conservative Party over her handling of Brexit, inviting two disaffected MPs to Downing Street and defending her approach in a letter to three former Tories who quit on Wednesday.

Justine Greening and Philip Lee were both invited to Number 10, following criticism from defecting MPs that no-one at the top of government had tried to stop them leaving. And in a long letter to Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, Mrs May said she was “saddened” by their decision to leave.

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The Prime Minister denied their claims the party had been taken over by the right and that she had given up on promises to deliver a fairer society. “I know you will not have come to your decision lightly, but I must say that I do not accept the picture you paint of our party,” she wrote. “Indeed, in each of the areas you highlight, our record in government shows that we are the ­moderate, open-hearted Conservative Party in the One Nation tradition you speak of.”

The Prime Minister acknowledged the party’s EU policy had changed, but said she had to respect the result of the 2016 referendum. “In my time in government and politics I have seen the consequences of people in power not giving a voice to those without one, or ignoring people when they speak. I believe we must not make that mistake by failing to deliver on the result of the referendum.”

Mrs May also pushed back at comparison between Brexiteers and the hard left in Labour. “I was sorry to read, and do not accept, the parallel you draw with the way Jeremy Corbyn and the hard left have warped a once-proud Labour Party and allowed the poison of anti-Semitism to go unchecked,” she wrote.

“Under my leadership the Conservative Party will always offer the decent, moderate and patriotic politics that the people of this country deserve. I hope we can continue to work together on issues where we agree.”