UK lawmakers in ruling party back group pushing for 'hard Brexit'

September 18, 2016 6:46 AM EDT

A Union flag flies next to the flag of the European Union in Westminster, London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo


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LONDON (Reuters) - Senior members of Britain's ruling Conservative Party are supporting a new group to lobby for a so-called 'hard Brexit' and persuade Prime Minister Theresa May to leave the EU's lucrative single market, media reported on Sunday.

The new group, called Leave means Leave, will press for Britain to break all ties with the European Union, with leader property investor Richard Tice saying only that would fulfill the wishes of Britons, who voted for Brexit at a June referendum.

Quoted by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Tice said "no deal is better than a bad deal" - or that Britain should pull out of the single market even if no alternative trade deal had been struck with the EU. It said he had the backing of a former justice minister, Dominic Raab, and other leading Conservatives.

Since Britain voted to leave the EU, groups that campaigned on either side of the referendum have morphed into lobbying organizations, pushing for either a 'soft Brexit' that sees Britain keeping its close ties with the EU or backing a tougher version.

Open Britain, which was formed by those who campaigned for Britain to remain in the bloc, said leaving the EU with no trade deal was "the biggest threat our economy faces".

"Working people will hope Number 10 rejects this approach and instead seeks membership of the single market, which is vital for jobs and growth," Conservative lawmaker and supporter of Open Britain, Anna Soubry, said in a statement.

May, who was appointed prime minister shortly after the referendum which forced the resignation of predecessor David Cameron, is increasingly expected to trigger the divorce procedure, or Article 50, early next year after saying she needed until the end of this year to form a negotiating stance.

With the opposition Labour Party in turmoil, the Conservative Party's divisions over Europe are coming to the fore as May gives little away.

Nicky Morgan, a Conservative former education secretary, said it was "absolutely inevitable" that there would be splits in the ruling party over how to deliver Brexit.

"Well it was absolutely inevitable that there were going to those on the 'leave' side of the debate who would say that any government is not going to go hard enough and fast enough and would set up a group to do that," she told ITV's Peston on Sunday program.

"And that's why I think the government needs to be saying this is what the plan is, this is where we want to get to."

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Toby Chopra)



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