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Conservatives suspend Girling over Brexit resolution

Gibraltar MEP Julie Girling has expressed ‘disappointment’ at being suspended from the Conservative party for supporting a resolution in the European Parliament in Strasbourg to block Brexit talks moving forward.

Ms Girling, a long-time friend of Gibraltar, was reprimanded by her party along with fellow Tory MEP Richard Ashworth after they backed the resolution in the European Parliament last Tuesday.

The pair broke ranks with the 21 strong group of Conservative MEPs to back the resolution, tabled by Guy Verhofstadt.

They were joined by 18 of Labour’s 20 Euro MEPs, the only Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru and Sinn Fein MEPs and one of the Green’s two Brussels parliamentarians.

In a statement Ms Girling said: “I am disappointed to have had the Conservative whip withdrawn, especially since it happened before any discussion was held with me about the reasons for my vote last week.”

She described the reaction from the party to the way she had voted as “precipitate” and accused the party of ‘changing.’

“I have been active in the party for 40 years - 20 as an elected representative - and for 39 of those years our policy has been pro-Europe,” Ms Girling said.

“I have never considered myself a rebel and have not altered my beliefs.”

“It is the party which has changed, not me, but that does not stop me feeling sadness that such a precipitate response was felt to be appropriate.”

The whip was removed following consultation between European Parliament Chief Whip Dan Dalton and Downing Street.

It comes after the two Conservative MEPs backed a resolution in the European Parliament last Tuesday that would stop Brexit talks moving onto trade discussions.

Although the vote is advisory, support for the resolution seeks to delay progress despite signs of renewed momentum in the wake of the Prime Minister’s Florence speech.

The resolution calls for trade talks not to begin until Britain makes major concessions over Northern Ireland, the divorce bill and the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

It calls for the ECJ to “remain the sole and competent authority for enforcing and interpreting European Union law and the withdrawal agreement” for millions of European citizens living in the UK.

It also calls for Northern Ireland to remain within the Customs Union and single market and insists “substantial progress” be made on the financial settlement “before entering into discussions on other issues”.

Conservative delegation leader Ashley Fox told eureporter: “It is extremely regrettable that two Conservative MEPs chose to vote in this way.”
“They left the party no choice but to act.”

According to the publication, Brexit Secretary David Davis has now written to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urging him to remove the whip from 18 Labour MEPs who also backed the European Parliament’s controversial vote.

He has also written to Lib Dem leader Vince Cable.

In his letter to Mr Corybn, Mr Davis states: “This non-binding vote by the European Parliament sends a signal about the importance each side attaches to agreeing a future partnership.”

“The Conservative Party therefore instructed our MEPs to vote against the motion and in favour of the UK’s national interest, and have removed the whip from those who refused to do so.”

“While I would not expect opposition political parties to agree with us all the time about the end state we seek, it is a self-evident part of the national interest to support a discussion about our future relationship with Europe.

“So I was disappointed that 18 Labour MEPs voted against moving the negotiations onto the next stage.”

“Will you follow suit and take action against the MEPs from your party who voted against the best future for the UK and the EU, or is this the official position of the Labour Party?”

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