May sacks ‘rebel’ Heseltine over Brexit vote
Michael Heseltine has been a significant advocate of European integration since the 1970s. Source: Wikimedia
Conservative pro-EU peer, Lord Michael Heseltine, has been sacked as a government adviser after voting against Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit in Britain’s unelected upper house.
Heseltine backed the demand for a parliamentary vote on any final deal May reaches with the rest of the EU to be written into Brexit legislation.
Barring an unexpectedly large rebellion by Conservative MPs, the Commons will overturn the Lords amendments next week and send them back to the Lords, which is not expected to try to block it a second time.
Before the vote, a Lib Dem member of the upper house was predicting the scale of the government defeat would be bigger than the 102 last week. When it was 98, some Lib Dems blamed the bishops in the outdated chamber. Only two of the appointed bishops backed the amendment.
The former deputy prime minister, Heseltine, learned hours later that he had been fired from five roles he had advising the government.
He said he accepted May’s right to sack him, adding that “sometimes there are issues which transcend party politics”.
Heseltine told the Lords the issue was “the most momentous peacetime decision of our time”.
The Tory member of the House of Lords told the BBC: “This is not my judgement, this is the prime minister exercising her perfectly legitimate right to get rid of opposition in any way she finds appropriate.
“Whether it’s a wise thing to do is a matter for her not for me. I have been hugely proud of the work I have done for David Cameron and now for this prime minister, and if they don’t want me to go on they must sack me.
“I did write a newspaper article the other day setting out exactly what I intended to do so I think they could have told me this would be the price but let me make it quite clear; I would still have voted as I did tonight.
“Sometimes in politics there are issues which transcend party politics; in the end you have to be your own person. I believe our interests are intertwined with Europe. I am not prepared to change.
“Every Conservative prime minister I worked for has told me, including this prime minister before the referendum, that we were essentially seeking British self-interest in Europe.
“It’s not perfect but it’s much better than anything that happened before the Second World War.”
May’s ministers have said they aim to overturn the two defeats peers inflicted on them in the Lords on amendments to the Brexit bill.