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Irish alarm over latest Tory Brexit split

While the selection process faced by Conservative MPs in the south of England would not usually attract undue wider attention, an intervention by a pro-Brexit group which was stepped up yesterday will certainly be followed closely on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Theresa May's administration has stumbled from one crisis to another while trying to implement its official policy of withdrawing from the EU in the wake of the disastrous and totally unnecessary referendum 14 months ago.

The narrow overall win for the leave camp, although both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted decisively to stay, effectively pushed Mrs May, after the inevitable resignation of David Cameron, on a journey without a map.

A mandate to depart was all very well, but it did not take into account the massive financial settlement owed to the EU and the enormous complications associated with the single market, the customs union and other issues.

It also became embarrassingly clear that the pro-Brexit forces had given no serious thought to the major crisis looming along the Irish border.

Tory splits were inevitable, with chancellor Philip Hammond and home secretary Amber Rudd among those regarded as trying to promote moderate options and avoid the imposition of radical and unsustainable proposals.

However, the well resourced Leave.EU organisation has now launched a high profile campaign designed to remove both ministers from the cabinet by seizing control of their respective constituency associations and deselecting them as MPs.

If figures like Mr Hammond and Ms Rudd are left weakened, or even ultimately forced out of their posts, the balance of power within the Wesminster government will shift towards the most hard-line elements.

Observers in Ireland can only await the next chapter in the entire sorry mess with a growing sense of trepidation.

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