The ex-cabinet minister behind the Conservative backbench push to reshape Theresa May’s Brexit plans has revealed he received a string of death threats since starting to question the Government’s approach to EU withdrawal.
Dominic Grieve told The Independent he had been left with no choice but to report several messages he had received to the police.
The senior Tory, who played a key role in the Commons vote lost by the Prime Minister on Wednesday, said all colleagues who spoke out on Brexit had suffered a “torrent” of abuse, including threats of physical violence.
It comes after a second Brexit-backing newspaper provocatively named on its front page Conservative MPs who disagreed with parts of the Prime Minister’s flagship EU Withdrawal Bill.
All 11 MPs named under the headline “Proud of yourselves?” in Thursday’s Daily Mail, also appeared in mid-November on the front of the Daily Telegraph, which branded them “mutineers”.
Former Attorney General Mr Grieve, among those named, said: “You only have to look at the vitriol, the death threats – I don’t do social media, but even so I’ve had to report certain things off to the police.
“It is a torrent – and it is all ‘you are stopping Brexit’.”
He went on: “Yes, I have had death threats. All my colleagues have had threats, mine were a voicemail message and a couple of emails.”
Mr Grieve brought forward the amendment that Conservative rebels and Labour MPs rallied around to inflict a wounding defeat on Ms May on Wednesday and had also been the author of other amendments which led the Government to willingly change other elements of her flagship Bill.
The Beaconsfield MP, like other Tories who defied the whip on Wednesday, made clear he had not wanted to vote against his own party and had undergone weeks of negotiations to try and come to a compromise with ministers. But in the end he said the change which they forced on the Government was necessary to prevent a “gross abuse of executive power”.
He explained: “The vitriol is a symptom of the real problem, because everything is seen in the binary terms of either pushing Brexit or sabotaging it, stopping it.
“I and the other participants, whatever our views on the undesirability of Brexit are not trying to do that.
“We are trying to ensure that the Brexit which takes place is carried out in an orderly way.”
Ex-Education Secretary Nicky Morgan also confirmed she had to refer one message to Parliament’s security authorities and added that she had received hundreds of emails.
Asked about the threats against Mr Grieve, a senior Government official said: “Of course no politician should face intimidation or threats, full stop.
“The Prime Minister commissioned the Committee on Standards in Public Life to report on harassment faced by MPs and candidates in recent months.”
Stephen Hammond was also among those who rebelled against the Government on Wednesday, the first time he has done so in his parliamentary career and appeared on this morning’s Mail front page.
He told The Independent: “The Mail and the Telegraph have form don’t they. They are basically pro-Brexit papers, and anyone who dares to say anything at all, even the mildest criticism – I mean, I was on the front page of the Telegraph before I had even rebelled.
“That I had dared to put down an amendment, normal parliamentary procedure, was outrageous. They see themselves as the guardians of Brexit, so I wasn’t surprised.”
Anger first simmered over during the debate that preceded the vote on Wednesday. Sir Desmond Swayne told the Commons the rebel amendments simply aimed to delay Brexit, dismissing them as “sanctimonious guff” and their Conservative backers as “idiots”.
He added: “Now we see the real motive and of course he was assisted by others, who comrade Lenin would have properly referred to as useful idiots.”
Nadine Dorries demanded her fellow Tory MPs be stripped of their seats in Parliament, tweeting that they had, “put a spring in Labours step, given them a taste of winning, guaranteed the party a weekend of bad press, undermined the PM and devalued her impact in Brussels”.
In particular the MP, who herself consistently rebelled against David Cameron’s drive to allow same-sex couples to marry, took aim at Mr Grieve and accused him of “treachery”.
Reports emerged of a heavy-handed whipping operation, which was said to have reduced one MP to tears, while others who complained about alleged bullying were said to have been threatened with legal action.
Rebels later said that they were baffled as to why the Government had not backed down and let go of the clause that was at the heart of the rebellion, arguing that even some Brexiteers said it was unnecessary.
Another of the rebels, Anna Soubry told The Independent: “The real problem is they couldn’t be seen to be giving in to me, Dominic Grieve, Nicky Morgan, Ken Clarke and so on, because they always have to keep sweet the hard Brexiteers.
“Now the hard Brexiteers may number 15 or 20, and what Theresa has to do is make it clear that they are not running our country – that’s what this is all about.
“That’s why it could and should have been avoided, all they had to do is accept [Dominic Grieve’s] amendment seven, it’s good in law and it’s great politics and they couldn’t do it, because they haven’t the courage to see off these people and so it had to be put to the vote and astonishingly we won.”
Many of last night’s rebels, and other MPs who did not vote against the Government, have signalled they may rebel over the Government’s plans to put the date of Brexit on the face of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.
They called on ministers and whips to adopt a more engaging approach and properly listen and take account of their concerns.
But on Thursday, less than 24 hours after the bruising defeat, Brexit Secretary David Davis sidestepped calls to ensure the Government does not undermine Parliament’s decision to ensure MPs have greater role in Brexit.
Mr Davis told the Commons that Wednesday’s vote would lead to a “very compressed timetable” for ministers, adding that the Government “will have to think about how we respond to it”.
He added: “Now those who want to see a smooth and orderly exit from the European Union hopefully will want to see a working statute book.
“So we will have to think about how we respond to it, but as always we take the House of Commons’ view seriously and will continue to do so.”