Brexit: Michael Ellis slams Labour's 'relentless negativity'
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A group of twenty-five of the 28 original “Spartan” Tory MPs, who had voted in 2019 against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, met up this week for a celebratory EU breakaway banquet. The group met for the first time this week following the 2019 Brexit crisis after repeated delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the occasion had been cancelled and postponed.
“The Spartans” term is coined for the group of Brexiteer rebels who refused to back then-Prime Minister Theresa May’s thrice-rejected Brexit deal, but later backed Boris Johnson’s offering in October.
The name draws upon the legend of the Battle of Thermopylae, where in 480BC 300 Spartans fought to the death to protect their city against the overwhelming numbers of the Persian army.
The group toasted their self-proclaimed victory in preventing Mrs May’s deal from getting through Parliament with a celebratory dinner held at the party’s historic Carlton Club in St James’s, central London.
Addressing the dinner guests, Sir Bill Cash, one of the evening’s co-hosts, said that without their opposition, Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement would now be in force.
Sir Bill said that if the MPs had buckled, “we would still be in the EU by the customs union, the backstop” and he thanked everyone in the group “for staying strong”.
The move to oppose Theresa May’s deal was likened to the fall of Neville Chamberlain in 1940, before Winston Churchill took the helm at Number 10, in Sir Bill’s speech to his comrades.
He told the group, it was “every person making their own decision, their own judgment that turned out to be right. It was the most important vote since the Norway vote in 1940”.
His speech was followed by a raucous and impromptu burst of For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow from the guest list which included Sir John Redwood and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary.
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Also in attendance were Ranil Jayawardena, the Trade Minister, and Suella Braverman, the Attorney General.
The MPs enjoyed a menu consisting of smoked trout salad with boiled quail’s egg, capers and cucumber, followed by lamb rump with confit peppers, sun-dried tomato and couscous, and they all footed the £100 a head cost at the cash bar themselves.
High-profile Brexiteers including Boris Johnson – who was in the US on a visit – and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons were not in attendance.
Some of the MPs claimed that the pair were “not eligible to attend”, as they had caved in to the pressure and backed Mrs May’s deal.
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Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin issued a thank you speech to the collective, expressing his gratitude “for this extraordinary fellowship and for the mistakes of our opponents and for reconciliation because many of our opponents are also our friends”.
Later in the evening, he added: “There was an extraordinary sense of fellowship among people, many of whom we don’t usually meet very often. Everyone paid their share.
“There was plenty of laughter, quite a lot of reliving how tough it was, how isolated we felt and individual people had to cope with this in their own way.”
The group reflected on their role in Mrs May stepping down as Prime Minister, which allowed current leader Mr Johnson to drive through his own Brexit deal.
As the evening drew to a close at around 10.30pm, the group assembled for a team photograph on the main stairs of the evening wearing mementoes that had been laid out on the table for them by Sir Bill.
Green ties and cufflinks for the men, and green scarves for the women were decorated with small gold Spartan helmets, a motif modelled on one that Sir Bill had spotted in the British Museum previously.
Mark Francois, the current chairman of the European Research Group, spoke of the evening with The Telegraph saying: “It was a great pleasure to dine with my fellow Spartans, especially as the event was delayed several times by Covid restrictions.
“These are the MPs who held out against all the odds and thus helped to deliver a real Brexit. They can wear their commemorative ties and scarves with pride.”
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