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Sacked Brexit rebel Lord Heseltine says he has never met Theresa May

Former cabinet minister Lord Heseltine said he has never met Theresa May, after being sacked as a Government adviser for rebelling over Brexit.

The defiant Tory grandee was fired after he backed demands in the House of Lords for a "meaningful" vote on the final exit deal, and said he was sorry the Government would lose his expertise.

The peer said had been working for the Government three to four days a week for the last six years, but that he had "no relationship" with the Prime Minister, was sacked by the chief whip in the Lords, and has still not heard from Number 10.

But the Prime Minister's official spokesman said he understood that Mrs May had in fact met Lord Heseltine, though he did not make clear whether this was since she entered Number 10.

Lord Heseltine said he was forced to abandon dinner with his wife to receive his marching orders from chief whip Lord Taylor of Holbeach after Tuesday's vote and debate on the Brexit Bill, in which he warned that quitting the European Union was the "most momentous peacetime decision of our time".

The former deputy prime minister said he knew there could be consequences if he rebelled, but he was not warned that he could lose his roles advising the Government on a number of areas, including its industrial strategy.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he went on: "I heard nothing from Number 10, I've had no relationship with Number 10 since the new Prime Minister (Mrs May).

"But I'm not complaining, I was getting on with the job that I was doing."

He refused to comment on suggestions that his sacking was designed to intimidate Tory MPs who are considering rebelling when the "meaningful vote" amendment comes back to the Commons, expected on Monday.

"I've never met Theresa May and so I can't make a judgment.

"She's doing very well in the post, public opinion approves of what she is doing, and so I'm not going to get involved in a sort of tit-tat of personalities," he said.

"My preoccupation has been from the very beginning that I believe that the referendum result is the most disastrous peacetime result that we've seen in this country."

After being sacked, he told the Press Association on Tuesday: "This is entirely the right of the Prime Minister and I'm sorry that the expertise which I have put at the Government's disposal over the last six years has now come to an end.

"However, in the last resort, I believe, as I said in the House of Lords, the future of this country is inextricably interwoven with our European friends.

"It's the duty of Parliament to assert its sovereignty in determining the legacy we leave to new generations of young people."

He was one of 366 peers who inflicted a second defeat on the Government's Brexit Bill.

Asked why she felt it necessary to sack him from his unpaid role, Mrs May's spokesman said: "The Government has a clearly stated, consistent position that the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill should be passed without amendment.

"It is a Bill with a simple purpose, to give the Government the power to trigger Article 50.

"Lord Heseltine, who held a number of official Government advisory positions, voted against the official position of the Government.

"The chief whip in the House of Lords therefore asked him to stand down from these roles.

"The Government would like to warmly thank Lord Heseltine for his service."

A Number 10 source rejected the suggestion Lord Heseltine's sacking was a warning to Tory MPs who were thinking about backing peers' demands for a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.

If the Lords' amendment to that effect is backed by the Commons it will be written into law in the European Union (Notification Of Withdrawal) Bill.

But following the vote on Tuesday, Brexit Secretary David Davis said the Government was intending to overturn the result.

He said: "It is clear that some in the Lords would seek to frustrate that process, and it is the Government's intention to ensure that does not happen.

"We will now aim to overturn these amendments in the House of Commons."

Lord Heseltine was asked to help the Government with plans to restore deprived estates under David Cameron, and was also involved with developing proposals for east London's future with George Osborne.

As well as advise on Swansea's city deal, he has also worked with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and has been a national infrastructure commissioner.


From Belfast Telegraph