Tuesday 3 September 2019 3:57 pm

Brexit: Tory MP Phillip Lee defects to Lib Dems to kill Boris Johnson's majority

Boris Johnson has lost his working majority of one in parliament, it appears, as former justice minister Phillip Lee abandoned his seat in the Commons to join the Liberal Democrats today.

The MP, an erstwhile critic of Brexit, is set to vote against a no-deal Brexit in today’s crunch parliament vote.

Read more: Brexit showdown: What tonight’s vote to stop no-deal Brexit actually means

Lee sent a resignation letter to the PM, saying “the Brexit process has helped to transform this once great party in to something more akin to a narrow faction, where an individual’s ‘conservatism’ is measured by how recklessly one wishes to leave the European Union”.

“Perhaps more disappointingly, it has increasingly become infected with the twin diseases of populism and English nationalism,” Lee added.

Instead Lee will throw his support behind Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson.

In a statement on the Liberal Democrats website he added: “I am dismayed at what the Conservative Party has become, the role that it has played in feeding division and populism, in squandering a hard-won reputation for sound stewardship, and the blinkered direction in which it has set our country.

“Those are not my values. I will not implicitly condone these things by being party to them.”

It means the Prime Minister no longer has a parliamentary majority, although several rebel Tory MPs are set to vote against the government and some Labour MPs could back Boris Johnson.

Lee stood up as Johnson addressed the Commons on the recent G7 summit and strode across the floor to sit with the Liberal Democrats.

The Prime Minister has suspended parliament for almost five weeks until 14 October – two weeks before the Halloween Brexit deadline.

Labour grandee Hilary Benn and Tory Alistair Burt – who has confirmed he will not stand at the next election – are hoping to scupper that with a joint bill tonight to vote against a no-deal Brexit.

If Speaker John Bercow allows the debate, and if MPs vote to support it, the bill would force Johnson to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline from the EU.

If granted, Johnson would then be bound by the bill to accept it, giving MPs a way to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Tory rebel and former chancellor Philip Hammond is confident the alliance has the support to defeat Johnson.

But if they manage to, Johnson has threatened to call a snap general election.

The risk of that happening sent the British pound plunging against the dollar today, though it has recovered to fall just 0.1 per cent down against the dollar at 1.2055.

Read more: Boris urges MPs to vote down ‘Corbyn’s Surrender Bill’

Johnson has also threatened to withdraw the whip from rebel MPs. Perhaps to avoid that fate, Burt’s office confirmed he will not stand at the next general election.

Former cabinet minister and Putney MP Justine Greening has also stated she will quit politics at the next election.

Main image: Getty