Tory MPs line up to defend 'mutineers' from Daily Telegraph's attack

Tory MPs line up to defend 'mutineers' from Daily Telegraph's attack

Rebel Conservative MPs have brushed off criticism of their opposition to the government's approach towards Brexit.

Tory unrest dominated the first day of committee stage debate on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill on Tuesday as Conservative MPs expressed growing concerns about the Government's desire to include a formal Brexit date of 11pm on March 29, 2019.

Tempers frayed after Bernard Jenkin said any MPs who did not want to fix the Brexit date are "open to the charge that they don't want us to leave the European Union", prompting fellow senior Tory Anna Soubry to label him a "disgrace".

MPs had their first chance to scrutinise the EU withdrawal bill, which would formally end Britain's membership of the European Union and transfer four decades of EU legislation into United Kingdom law.

The government were "boxing themselves into a corner" in using the bill to specify the exact date and time of Brexit - 23:00 GMT on 29 March 2019 - he said, because the United Kingdom would be "hamstrung" if the negotiations needed to be extended at the last minute.

MPs, including from the Conservative party, have tabled 188 pages of amendments to the bill, which will be debated in groups over eight days spread over the coming weeks.

"It's not about frustrating Brexit, it's about getting the best economic deal for this country", he added.

"I regret any media attempts to divide our party".

Anna Soubry, one of the backbenchers featured, described the coverage as a "blatant piece of bullying that goes to the very heart of democracy".

However, government ministers were quick to disavow the front page, insisting that they did not want their party to be divided by the media and that they were working constructively with those Tories seeking improvements to the European Union withdrawal bill.

The government said it wants an implementation period of around two years after Brexit to stop an economically damaging "cliff-edge" - but insists Britain will be fully out of the EU.

The debate continues on Wednesday, with the key vote on the Brexit date amendment not expected until next month.