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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 April 2019

Thatcherites refuse to back down over hard Brexit

Some Brexiteers, however, concede they could back away from a clean EU break

Memories of the strength of Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister, have been evoked.
Memories of the strength of Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister, have been evoked.

The vanguard of hardline supporters of Britain’s exit from the Europe has no intention of abandoning its dream even if the political class is gearing up for a shift towards compromise with Brussels.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the most visible anti-EU politicians in the ruling Conservative Party, signalled on Tuesday he was ready for a shift away from the clean break he and others have called for since the referendum in 2016.

He warned he might have to back the government’s withdrawal plan or risk no Brexit at all. This softening from the staunchest of Brexiteers did little to dampen the resolve of a group of followers of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who were bewildered and infuriated by the recent Brexit delay

In a gold painted great hall only a quick jaunt from parliament, some 100 defiant believers in the project were joined by current and former MPs who insisted they would not back down. Harking back to the days when Mrs Thatcher stood up to the EU and to Argentina over the Falkland Islands, the attendees furiously described the current governments decision to delay Brexit as a disgraceful “betrayal”.

Under two shimmering chandeliers the words “treasonous” and “obstructive” were bandied about as pro-Brexit politicians stoked the fire. “Last week we were in touching distance of a great prize: Freedom day,” said Bruges Group chairman and former MP Barry Legg.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Once this country had a great Prime Minister. Her name was Margaret Thatcher. When times got tough, she boldly declared: you turn, the lady’s not for turning.”

The BBC, Financial Times, civil service and anyone who had dared to suggest leaving the EU without a deal could be an economic and chaotic disaster were just some of those also to take some heat.

The second woman prime minister Theresa May, bore the brunt of their hatred. Her attack last week on MPs for refusing to back her Brexit plan, rejected twice, have attracted fury from all sides of the parliament.

Her inflexible approach to negotiations with the EU have exasperated Brussels, unsure of how Mrs May plans to proceed.

But it is perhaps the Brexiteers, angry at her changing statements and inability to present them with the deal they want who have vented the fury the most at Mrs May.

Still, one MP seemed less certain a no-deal Brexit was on the cards, even if it was her preferred way forward.

Part of that vanguard of ultra-Eurosceptic MP’s, Suella Braverman said the fight against Brussels would not stop regardless of what happens in the next months.

“I will be able to come back to you next year and say: ‘We are in this situation. Perhaps we may have failed to deliver Brexit this time but I tell you the British people will not have failed us.”

“The British people will still want independence and sovereignty. I believe that dream is alive and well in the heart of our people, more so than in 2016,” the former government minister said to standing ovation.

Updated: March 27, 2019 08:18 PM

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