Tory Eurosceptics have vented fresh anger and frustration at Theresa May after the PM offered to sit down with Jeremy Corbyn to hammer out a Brexit deal.
Backbenchers called the plan, announced by May outside Number 10 after a tumultuous seven-hour Cabinet meeting drew to a close on Tuesday night, “frankly grotesque” and “appalling”.
May said her decision was an “attempt to break the logjam” after MPs rejected her own Brexit deal three times.
The two leaders would try to agree a withdrawal deal, she said, and if they fail to broker a compromise by April 10 - when the EU Council is next to meet - new options would be put to MPs.
Whichever options parliament then backed, the government would implement, May also confirmed, meaning a second referendum or the UK embarking on a substantially softer exit from the bloc can no longer be ruled out.
The news enraged the European Research Group, the Brexiteer faction of Tory MPs, who were meeting in a Commons committee room when the news broke.
Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns told HuffPost UK as he left the room: “She’s effectively said that the United Kingdom doesn’t have a government.
“The idea that a Conservative prime minister would go to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and they are then to decide whether commitments we made in our manifesto or promises we made in 2016 are to be delivered is frankly grotesque.”
He later tweeted that Remainers were “on the cusp of victory”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, ERG chairman, spoke to reporters as the meeting disbanded.
“I think getting the support of a known Marxist is not likely to instill confidence in Conservatives,” he said.
May’s decision “validated” the North East Somerset MP after his U-turn to back the deal, he said.
“My reason for voting for the deal last week is that I thought it was better to accept a second rate deal than to hold out for the perfect and find we didn’t get Brexit at all,” he said.
“I think what was announced today was an attempt to overturn the referendum and to do a deal with a socialist who doesn’t want Brexit [...] is not in line with the Conservative manifesto commitments or the referendum.”
He said there had been no discussion of Brexiteers re-launching any bid to topple May after their failure to oust her in December, but added: “You do find that leaders who decide to go with the opposition rather than their own party find that their own party doesn’t tamely follow.”
Former Tory whip Charlie Elphicke said the potential Labour-Tory deal would be “appalling”.
Andrea Jenkyns, meanwhile, said May’s announcement had sparked “further national frustration” and suggested the PM was launching “another tactic” to get Brexiteers to back her withdrawal agreement.
“We are desperate for a Brexit PM,” Jenkyns tweeted.
Michael Fabricant described the potential Labour-Tory Brexit plan as akin to “Chinese water torture” for the Brexit wing of the Tory Party.
Boris Johnson, widely viewed as the Eurosceptics’ favourite to replace May, said it was “disappointing” as he reiterated he would not back a customs union - the plan which attracted the most support, if not a majority, when rival Brexit plans were put before MPs in the ‘indicative votes’ process.
Brexiteer Nadine Dorries predicted a soft Brexit compromise with “maybe even” a single market deal, which is Labour’s policy, could be on the cards as early as the end of the week.
“The worst of all worlds,” she said.
Moderate Tories and May allies warmly welcomed the news, however.
Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly said “the penny has now dropped” that there was no majority for a hard Brexit.
Prisons minister Rory Stewart said it was “absolutely right” for May to seek a compromise with Labour after her withdrawal agreement was rejected three times.
Policing minister Nick Hurd also praised May while acknowledging the news “will generate some rage” from his colleagues.