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Telegraph accused of 'bullying' Tory rebel MPs after labelling them Brexit 'mutineers'

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Ken Clarke

One of several votes yesterday was on whether the bill should include a line repealing the 1972 act - crucial to taking us out of the EU.

This problem is about to be brought into sharp focus as the centrepiece of the government's legislative programme for Brexit, the EU Withdrawal Bill, returns to parliament this week.

Pro-EU ex-minister Anna Soubry, described it as a "blatant piece of bullying that goes to the very heart of democracy".

A Daily Telegraph front page vilifying 15 Conservative MPs as a band of "Brexit mutineers" appeared to backfire on Wednesday as the newspaper was accused of bullying and the rebels claimed the description as a badge of honour.

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.

Bob Neill, the MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, is one of the Tory MPs named and he dismissed the front page as "ridiculous".

But despite the revolt, the measure passed through Parliament easily during the first day of debate over whether to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill.

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Brexit minister Steve Baker, who spoke for the government in Tuesday's debate, tweeted: "I regret any media attempts to divide our party".

A series of attempts to rewrite the legislation were seen off with Government majorities ranging from 20 to 266.

Grieve said that no amount of "arm twisting" would make him vote for the amendment, which will not be voted on until next month towards the end of the bill's committee stage.

Keir Starmer, Labour's chief Brexit spokesman, said the proposal was "a significant climbdown from a weak government on the verge of defeat".

He said: "The government's amendments to their own Bill would stand in the way of an orderly transition and increase the chance of Britain crashing out of Europe without an agreement".

Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash has told talkRADIO anyone voting against enshrining the leave date in law is effectively trying to reverse the referendum result.

"If it doesn't what will happen is it will get massacred in the House of Lords - quite rightly".

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