The veteran Eurosceptic John Redwood has received a knighthood in the New Year honours list, prompting accusations that Theresa May is using the honours system to smooth the way for her Brexit deal.
With the vote on the prime minister’s deal due to take place in the week of 14 January, the Conservative backbencher and former Wales secretary is one of three MPs to be knighted.
Redwood, a vehement critic of May’s deal, detailed his objections to it in a blogpost published on 27 December titled “Eight things wrong with the withdrawal agreement”.
Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat MP and supporter of the pro-remain Best for Britain campaign, said the knighthood smacked of desperation as May tries to face down opposition to her deal.
“I cannot see how it is anything but a desperate attempt to blunt criticism of the prime minister’s Brexit deal,” Moran said.
“All this does is erode trust in politics. Knights of the realm are meant to represent the best of being British, not backstabbing Brexit extremists like John Redwood.”
May also announced three Tory appointments to the privy council, the inner circle of senior MPs and other public functionaries who are referred to as “right honourable”, though their role is now largely ceremonial.
They include Edward Leigh, a Brexiter and member of the backbench European Research Group, who has nevertheless supported May’s deal and declined to be drawn into Jacob Rees-Mogg’s attempt to unseat the prime minister and trigger a leadership contest.
Labour’s deputy chief whip, Alan Campbell, will also be knighted. The MP for Tynemouth has held the post since 2010, and colleagues said he has been crucial to devising Labour’s Brexit strategy in parliament.
In particular, Labour sources said he came up with the idea of using the arcane parliamentary procedure, known as a humble address, to force the government to publish economic assessments of the impact of Brexit, which his colleagues jokingly call the “Campbell papers”.
Redwood has been the MP for Wokingham in Berkshire since 1987, and became Wales secretary in 1993, memorably struggling to sing along to the Welsh national anthem at his party’s annual conference in Wales.
He clashed with John Major over Europe and stood against him unsuccessfully for the Tory leadership in 1995, when Major urged his critics to “put up or shut up”.
Since the EU referendum in 2016, Redwood has consistently urged the government to revert to trading on much less favourable World Trade Organization rules, rather than continue to be bound by EU tariffs and regulations.
The Labour party chairman, Ian Lavery, said: “It is insulting to those who make invaluable contributions to society that the Tories for years have continued to use the honours system to award their own Conservative grandees and party donors.”