At 11pm on January 31, Britain left the EU, putting an end to almost half a century of eurosceptic frustration. The journey there was not an easy one, though, as Brexit day was preceded by a debilitating political period that bitterly divided the nation. The time since the Leave vote in June 2016 involved unprecedented levels of parliamentary rancour, public anger and mistrust.
Many parliamentarians and politicians tried to ignore the democratic will of the people.
One of them was former Tory minister Anna Soubry, who in 2018 infuriated party colleagues by uniting with a senior Labour backbencher to suggest Brexit could be blocked.
The former business minister sat next to former Labour MP Chuka Umunna during the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show to make a joint attack on Theresa May’s plans for leaving the EU.
The pair, who support the Open Britain campaign group, which wanted continuing close links between the UK and Brussels, threatened a Commons revolt against the departure deal expected to be agreed by the former Prime Minister.
The provocative decision to sit alongside a Labour politician followed a threat by Ms Soubry to quit the Tories if a hardline Brexit supporter such as Jacob Rees-Mogg or Mr Johnson became leader.
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Asked if they believed they had a majority in the House of Commons to defeat “the kind of Brexit the Prime Minister wanted”, Ms Soubry said: “If she’s not careful, yes.”
And when Mr Marr suggested that Ms Soubry was closer politically to Mr Umunna than she was to Jacob Rees-Mogg, she said: “I’m not denying that.”
She also suggested Brexit could have been cancelled, saying: “Will it definitely happen?
“I genuinely don’t know what is going to happen.
“I’ll tell you who might stop it and that’s the people of this country.”
Pro-Brexit Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said Ms Soubry and Mr Umunna “looked very comfortable together” on the chat show sofa.
He added: “Referendums often create strange bedfellows.”
Mr Umunna insisted MPs could block a hard Brexit, saying: “There is no majority in the House of Commons for us simply to jump off a cliff.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Former Labour MP Chuka Umunna and former Tory minister Anna Soubry on the BBC1 Andrew Marr Show
In a BBC Newsnight interview the week before, Ms Soubry had urged Mrs May to “sling out” the Tories’ hard Brexit ringleaders.
She said: “I’m really cheesed off about the way the whole Brexit thing is going.
“It feels like, and I think there’s evidence to support this, Theresa is in shock to these 35 hard Brexiteers.
“They don’t represent my party, but more importantly they don’t represent people who voted Leave.
“If it comes to it, I am not going to stay in a party which has been taken over by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson. They are not proper Conservatives.”
Ms Soubry resigned in February 2019 and joined The Independent Group.
She was appointed Leader of Change UK in June 2019.
Mr Umunna also resigned from Labour and joined Change UK.
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Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry
Chuka Umunna stood for Cities of London and Westminster in the 2019 general election
He was its group spokesperson but left in June 2019 to sit as an independent MP following “disappointing” European Parliament election results showing the party had “failed to get a single MEP elected”.
One week later, Mr Umunna joined the Liberal Democrats and was appointed their Treasury and Business Spokesperson by leader Vince Cable.
In August 2019, he was appointed Foreign Affairs, International Development and International Trade Spokesperson by new leader Jo Swinson.
He stood for Cities of London and Westminster in the 2019 general election but lost to Nickie Aiken of the Conservatives.
On the other hand, Mr Johnson secured a crushing victory and is now one of the most popular Prime Ministers since Margaret Thatcher.