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19th Jul 2018

COMMENT: Is Anna Soubry now the official opposition to the madness of Hard Brexit?


It wasn’t always this way.

Once upon a time, politics was black and white – or rather red and blue. You knew where you were with politicians. One side governed, and the other opposed. Then Brexit came along, and nothing has been the same since.

But through the muddied waters of the past two years have emerged politicians such as the Conservative MP Anna Soubry, as of a few voices still opposed to Brexit – whether it be Theresa May’s “red, white and blue” or Jeremy Corbyn’s equally woolly “jobs-first” version.

Soubry, Remain campaigner and former member of David Cameron’s cabinet, has been making headlines for her outspoken opposition to her own party’s handling of Brexit negotiations, culminating in her call during an interview on yesterday’s Today programme for a national unity government of “sensible, pragmatic” MPs from across the Commons to avoid a hard Brexit. MPs such as Labour’s Jess Phillips welcomed the idea.

She has savaged Theresa May’s leadership, suggesting in that same interview that a small cabal of Eurosceptic Tory MPs led by Jacob Rees-Mogg is actually running the country.

Soubry has also had strong words to say about the Lib Dems who, despite painting themselves as the ‘Stop Brexit’ party since the referendum two years ago, missed Monday’s crucial vote in parliament which would have given MPs the final say in the event of no deal being reached with the EU.

In Parliament, Soubry has often filled the void left by the Labour front bench in vocally opposing hard Brexit. Her voting record – on welfare for example – leaves a lot to be desired, but what she is doing right is facing up the reality that her own party’s policies have the potential to cause huge numbers of job losses.

“If we do not deliver frictionless trade, thousand of jobs will go,” she told MPs in the Commons this week. “And honourable members sitting on these benches, in private conversations, know that to be the case. And what they have said in those private conversation is the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs will be worth it to regain our country’s sovereignty.”

In a pointed reference to some of her own colleagues, she added, “You tell that to the people who voted to leave in my constituency. Nobody voted to be poorer and nobody voted leave on the basis that somebody with a gold-plated pension and inherited wealth would take their job away from them.”

Along the way, Soubry has made the right kind of enemies. Brexiteer MP Nadine Dorries, speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics show, described Soubry’s Commons speech as “one of the worst moments we have ever witness in the chamber,” suggesting Remain MPs have “lost the plot”.

The right-wing commentator Iain Martin, writing in the Times described her as ‘fanatical’ without a hint of irony.

Whether you think Brexit can be stopped, or simply want to avoid the hard Brexit currently favoured by the Government, it seems that one of the most powerful voices of opposition in parliament is currently coming from the government benches.

Even in the face violent threats and police protection, Soubry has been loud and consistent in holding the government to account, and our democracy is better for it.