Brexit rift among British Conservatives is revealed in Leavers' WhatsApp messages

The messages are from the WhatsApp forum of the European Research Group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg (above).
The messages are from the WhatsApp forum of the European Research Group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg (above).PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - A leak of WhatsApp chats from a Conservative Party group that favours a complete British withdrawal from the European Union shows the breadth of animosity among factions in the governing party and the possible threat posed to an uneasy truce.

The messages, published by BuzzFeed on Saturday (March 10), are from the WhatsApp forum of the European Research Group (ERG), which is led by Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the most vociferous anti-EU lawmakers.

Rees-Mogg struck a conciliatory tone after a March 2 speech by Theresa May that seemed to secure a temporary reprieve from the Tory infighting.

The leaked texts published by BuzzFeed target Conservative colleagues who are pushing for the mildest form of Brexit, including Anna Soubry and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond.

BuzzFeed said ERG leaders it contacted did not respond to requests for comment on the texts.

When enough Conservatives broke with May and joined the opposition Labour Party in December to give Parliament a final vote over the Brexit deal, Tory lawmaker Philip Davies wrote in the chat that the government had been pushed into a corner "because the rebels are all condescending a***holes," BuzzFeed reported.

"Being nice to them is very definitely a strategy that is not working," texted Nadine Dorries, Davies' fellow member of the ERG.

In September, Davies vented his concerns over allowing free movement of European citizens in Britain after Brexit, likening concessions by May to the appeasing politics of the British Cabinet towards nazi Germany before the World War II.

"We have rewarded the EU for their intransigence. It is pathetic to be frank - a modern day Chamberlain."