April 1, 2019 / 5:36 AM / 21 days ago

UK should have said soft Brexit was inevitable in 2017: chief whip

Britain's Conservative Party Chief Whip Julian Smith is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain, March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government should have said in 2017 that a softer Brexit was inevitable after it lost its parliamentary majority in an election, the chief enforcer of her Conservative Party in parliament said.

Chief whip Julian Smith, speaking in an interview with the BBC released on Monday, also criticized senior ministers for “the worst example of ill-discipline in cabinet in British political history”.

The BBC said it was unprecedented for a chief whip to publicly criticize the government. It comes as May’s ministers are deeply split over how to break Britain’s Brexit impasse.

Lawmakers are due to vote on Monday on alternatives to May’s deal, several of which call for Britain to have closer ties to the EU than foreseen under the prime minister’s plan.

Smith told the BBC that, when it failed to get a majority in the 2017 election, “the government as a whole probably should have just been clearer on the consequences of that. The parliamentary arithmetic would mean that this would be inevitably a kind of softer type of Brexit.”

He said he had seen ministers “sitting around the cabinet table... trying to destabilize her (May).”

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Elisabeth O'Leary

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