Ahead of Tuesday’s crunch vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the Transport Secretary said putting a stop to the split may end centuries of “moderate” politics in Britain. Urging Conservative colleagues to get behind the Prime Minister’s unpopular deal, he warned millions of Leave voters would feel “cheated” if Brexit is not delivered. His comments came just hours before pro-Brexit protestors and anti-Brexit demonstrators clashed in central London.
Pro-EU MPs branded his remarks “dangerous scaremongering” and “gutter politics”.
Mr Grayling, who campaigned for Brexit, told the Daily Mail: “People have to think long and hard about how they are going to vote. This is too important for political game-playing and I urge Conservative MPs who back Brexit and others to back the deal.
“If not, we risk a break with the British tradition of moderate, mainstream politics that goes back to the Restoration in 1660.
“MPs need to remember that Britain, its people and its traditions are the mother of Parliaments. We ignore that and the will of the people at our peril.”
Mrs May’s deal is widely expected to suffer a heavy defeat when it comes before the Commons next week prompting intense speculation over what will happen next.
As things stand, Britain would leave the EU on March 29 with no deal if the Prime Minister’s divorce terms are voted down.
But there are growing calls to delay Brexit if Parliament cannot reach a consensus prompting fears among some Brexiteers that Britain may not end up leaving the bloc for months if at all.
Mr Grayling said there would be a “different tone” in British politics if Britain failed to leave the EU and predicted a “less tolerant society” and a “more nationalistic nation”.
He told the Daily Mail: ”It will open the door to extremist populist political forces in this country of the kind we see in other countries in Europe.
“If MPs who represent seats that voted 70 percent to leave say ‘sorry guys, we’re still going to have freedom of movement’, they will turn against the political mainstream.”
His comments have been condemned by pro-EU Tory former minister Anna Soubry and Labour former minister David Lammy.
Ms Soubry, who was branded a “Nazi” and a “liar” by a mob who targeted her during live television interviews outside Parliament on Monday, described Mr Grayling’s comments as “irresponsible nonsense”.
She tweeted: “The 15 yobs who have been roaming outside Parliament do not represent anyone but themselves. It’s shameful to validate them in this way. Right-wing extremists have always existed Brexit is just an excuse – this is their real agenda.”
Mr Lammy said: “This is a desperate attempt by a Government minister to use a tiny far-right minority to hold our democracy to ransom. It is gutter politics.
“History shows us appeasement only emboldens the far right and impoverishing the country through Brexit will only increase resentment.
“To heal our nation, we need to provide a positive narrative that actually addresses the inequalities that have been allowed to ferment over recent years, rather than follow through with bogus solution that worsens them.”