Understanding the Brexit factions within the Tories

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POLITICO compiled a guide to the factions among Tory MPs and how they will react if and when Theresa May brings home a deal from Brussels on Brexit.

1. Militant Brexiteers

What they want: World Trade Organization rules would be just fine. No deal, no sweat.

How many? Sixty-two signed a letter listing the group’s key demands in February. The even more militant core group is smaller. The shorthand for this group in Westminster is the European Research Group (ERG), although the ERG organization as a whole is a much broader church. It is the leadership of the organization that is the most hard-line.


2. ERG-lite

What they want: Hard Brexit, but less strident than the ultra-Brexiteers.

How many? The less noisy of the 62 who signed the February letter.

The official figure for paid-up members of the European Research Group is not public, but is believed to be a few dozen. But there are many more, around 100, on the ERG WhatsApp group. One follower (not a full member) says views in this wider ERG-lite community are much more varied.


3. Brexit egos

What they want:  To kill Chequers.

How many? 2

Boris Johnson and David Davis — who resigned in opposition to the Chequers plan from their posts as foreign and Brexit secretaries — really need their own category.


4. Careerists

What they want: To keep the Tories in power — and their jobs.

How many? A few dozen.

There are plenty of ministers — both Remain- and Leave-backing — who are unhappy about the current state of Brexit negotiations, but believe it is better to stay inside the government tent.

On the Brexit side, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Penny Mordaunt, Esther McVey and Suella Braverman have stomached the Chequers deal despite reservations — but allies say they could find it hard to stay if May is forced to concede more to the European Union.


5. Pragmatists

What they want: A deal, almost any deal.

How many? Reports suggest 50 have joined the Brexit Delivery Group.

This group doesn’t buy the slogan that no deal is better than a bad deal and want to do everything they can to help the prime minister get one.

Many are trying to work across the factional divides. Simon Hart is among those who have set up the new Brexit Delivery Group. Its raison d’être is to give May room to negotiate without setting any red lines.


6. Soft-Brexit rebels

What they want: The least disruptive Brexit possible.

How many? 12 voted against the government to keep the U.K. inside the EU customs union.

This group of friends, which includes Nicky Morgan, Stephen Hammond, Antoinette Sandbach and Dominic Grieve, have been willing to rebel against the government, and have had their mugshots splashed across the Brexit-backing Daily Mail front page as a result.

Most believe the U.K. should be exploring an off-the-shelf arrangement with the European Union to avoid disruption to trade. The referendum provided no mandate about which type of Brexit to pursue, they argue.


7. People’s Vote brigade

What they want: A referendum on the Brexit deal.

How many? 4

A small group of Conservatives has joined forces with other ardent Remainers from across the political spectrum to advocate a referendum on the final deal that May brings back from Brussels.



8. Agnostics

What they want: A quiet life without Brexit.

How many? The rest

These are the MPs doing their best to stay out of the fight. They would like to move on from the divisiveness of Britain’s EU exit and get on with doing the other things they got into politics to tackle.

One Tory veteran of the House of Commons tea rooms said media coverage often resembles the movie “Casablanca” — “round up the usual suspects.”


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