‘We need a new leader who can command DUP’s respect’, says leading Tory Brexiteer

A leading eurosceptic Tory MP has said his party must find a new leader “who can command the respect of the DUP” in order to survive in government.

Mark Francois, vice chairman of the Brexiteer European Research Group, said in a scathing letter of no-confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May that the DUP have been treated “appallingly”.

Conservative MP Mark Francois. ''Picture: Sarah Standing (160651-5639)

Conservative MP Mark Francois. ''Picture: Sarah Standing (160651-5639)

Mr Francois quoted the DUP’s Nigel Dodds saying of the Prime Minister: “She just won’t listen.”

In his letter of no-confidence, which has been widely circulated online, Mr Francois wrote: “As I tried to say respectfully to the Prime Minister in the House of Commons yesterday, there is absolutely no way that this (draft Brexit withdrawal) deal will pass through the House.

“The Labour Party are now pledged to vote against it with perhaps a handful of exceptions; the SNP will vote against it; the Liberal Democrats will vote against it; crucially the Democratic Unionist Party will vote against it and over 80 Conservative MPs are pledged to vote against it as well.”

He continued: “As I said yesterday this makes it mathematically impossible for the deal to pass. I pleaded with the Prime Minister to accept the political reality of this situation but still she continues to believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that she will get it through. She is, in short, in complete denial.”

Referring specifically to Northern Ireland and its place within the Union, the MP for Rayleigh and Wickford wrote: “Like many colleagues, I am also deeply worried that Chequers would treat Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the United Kingdom. Not only is this a betrayal of the Province but it would give succour to our opponents in the SNP and assist them in renewing their calls for the breakup of the United Kingdom. “As members of the Conservative and Unionist Party we cannot and must not allow this to happen.”

He continued: “In raw political terms there is also the fact that the Prime Minister has appallingly treated and now alienated our strategic allies in the Democratic Unionist Party. We rely on these MPs for a working majority in the House of Commons, given the disastrous General Election of 2017 which she called and in which we lost over 30 valued colleagues. As ever, this was a decision she took with a very small coterie of advisors and without seeking opinion or advice from her experienced colleagues.

“The DUP can speak for themselves but from what I have seen over the last few days, and given Nigel Dodds’ words in the House yesterday when he said ‘she just doesn’t listen’ it seems to me that not only will the DUP resist Chequers but they have effectively now lost all faith in the Prime Minister. This means that it will be practically impossible for us to continue to rely on them to prop up the Government while the Prime Minister remains in Office.

“I therefore believe that in order for our party to survive in Government it is imperative we find a new leader who can command the respect of the DUP and therefore maintain the working majority in Parliament. This is, to coin a phrase, an inconvenient truth but it is there nonetheless.”