PENRITH and the Border MP Rory Stewart has given a low-key response to newspaper claims that he and other no-deal Brexit rebels could be kicked out of the Conservative Party.

As divisions within the party grew ever deeper, the former International Development Secretary stuck to his guns, saying that he could never support a no-deal Brexit, whatever the consequences.

His comment came amid reports that Tory whips are threatening MPs who side with Jeremy Corbyn to halt a no-deal Brexit with expulsion from the party.

“I believe a no-deal Brexit would be very damaging for Cumbrian farmers, and for the country,” said Mr Stewart.

“We need a sensible Brexit and no-deal would not be that.

“I feel very strongly about this. I stood on a Conservative manifesto where we committed to an orderly exit from the EU, and that means we can’t do this [no-deal Brexit].”

Asked about the possibility of him being deselected and standing as a non-Conservative should a general election be called in the coming weeks, Mr Stewart said: “I expect to stand as a Conservative. Nobody has so far actually threatened to deselect me. This, so far, is just rumour.

“I spoke to the chief whip this morning and I would expect to stand as a Conservative for the Conservative Party.”

Mr Stewart said he was not trying to organise a “revolution” within his party, and he reiterated a point he has previously made that the UK needs to honour result of the 2016 Brexit referendum which delivered a slim majority in favour of leaving the EU.

But he said: “We have a perfectly good deal.”

He vowed to stick to his principle of not supporting no-deal. , saying the deselection of MPs would damage the country

Summarising the current mood in his constituency party, he said: “They’re having a very difficult time. They are in a very difficult situation but they understand my situation. Some think I have exaggerated how bad a no-deal would be.

“Some agree with me. I am playing it as calmly as I can. My expectation is that we will be successful in extending Article 50 and putting pressure on the government to return to being sensible about getting a deal.

“A general election would be very regrettable. I don’t want to take that risk. I don’t want Jeremy Corbyn to get in. We have to return to doing a sensible Brexit. It would take no time at all to get it through.”

The MP speculated that the government wanted rebels to vote down a no-deal Brexit in order to provoke a general election, pointing out: “But I can’t take the risk of not voting down a no-deal.”

The MP added: “It’s a very difficult moment. People feel very strongly about this. What’s so unfair is that it’s tearing the party apart, testing people’s world view in an unfair way. My last surgery was dominated by people who are worried about a no-deal Brexit. People who understand the [EU] tariff schedule are very anxious.”

n The News & Star tried to speak to Labour politicians in east and west Cumbria, including Carlisle’s Labour candidate for the next general election. None were available.