Brexit rebel Lord Heseltine sacked

London, March 8 (IANS) Britain’s former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine has been sacked as a government adviser after rebelling over Brexit in the House of Lords.

Lord Heseltine on Tuesday backed the demand for a parliamentary vote on the final deal to be written into Brexit legislation and was hours later fired from five government advisory roles he had held, BBC reported.

According to him, he accepted Number 10’s right to sack him but “sometimes there are issues which transcend party politics”.

“I have never met (Prime Minister) Theresa May. So I can’t make a judgement. She’s doing very well in the polls… the public approve of what she’s doing,” he said after being discharged from the roles.

Lord Heseltine, who campaigned to remain in the EU, told the Lords that the UK was facing “the most momentous peacetime decision of our time”.

He told the BBC that May was “exercising her perfectly legitimate right to get rid of opposition in any way she finds appropriate”.

“I have been hugely proud of the work I have done for (former Prime Minister) David Cameron and now for this Prime Minister, and if they don’t want me to go on, they must sack me.”

“Every Conservative Prime Minister I worked for has told me, including (May) 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,” he said.

The 83-year-old — who dramatically walked out of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet during a row over Westland helicopters in 1986 — served as a minister in both her and John Major’s Conservative governments in the 1980s and 1990s.

In a statement, the government said it had “a clearly stated and consistent position” that the Brexit bill should be passed without amendment.

The chief whip in the Lords asked Lord Heseltine to stand down because he voted against the government’s official position, it said.

“The government would like to warmly thank Lord Heseltine for his service,” the statement said.

When the bill returns to the Commons next week, ministers will have some persuading to do to reverse the Lords changes, but May remains on course to trigger Article 50 and begin Brexit negotiations before the end of this month.

Peers voted by 366 votes to 268 in favour of an amendment to the bill to have a “meaningful” parliamentary vote on the final terms of the Brexit deal.

It was the second defeat for the bill in the Lords — the previous one was on the issue of guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens.

May has said she wants to trigger Article 50 by the end of March but the Commons is unlikely to have an opportunity to consider the changes made by the Lords until the middle of next week because four days have been set aside for debate on the budget.

–IANS

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