Jeremy Hunt has warned Theresa May she would lose the support of more Tory MPs than she would gain Labour MPs if she backed a customs union in an attempt to strike a Brexit deal with Jeremy Corbyn.
The foreign secretary said on Tuesday he believed a deal would “definitely” be done and insisted there was still a “great sense of urgency” despite Brexit reportedly not even being on the agenda of today’s cabinet meeting.
“The reality of Brexit is that it is the most controversial issue, certainly in my political lifetime, but we have a hung parliament so we cannot get it through without talking to other parties,” Hunt told BBC Radio 4′s today programme.
“If we were proposing, which I very much hope we don’t, to sign up to the customs union, then I think there is a risk that you would lose more Conservative MPs than you would gain Labour MPs.
“If, on the other hand, it was something different, then the result could be different as well.”
Amid pressure on May to quit as sooner rather than later, the foreign secretary, who is expected to run to succeed her as PM, said “just changing the leader doesn’t actually change the parliamentary arithmetic”.
Cross-party talks aiming to break the impasse continue, with the de facto deputy prime minister David Lidington describing discussions on Monday as “positive” and “productive”.
Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure today to commit Labour to a confirmatory referendum on any Brexit deal when his party’s governing body meet later to agree its European election manifesto.
The ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) is to gather on Tuesday for a crunch meeting to finalise the party’s position on Brexit for next month’s polls.
The NEC finely balanced between those who want a referendum on “any Brexit deal” and on “a Tory Brexit deal”.
Some 115 MPs and MEPs signed a letter to NEC members organised by the Love Socialism, Hate Brexit group urging them to explicitly back a referendum in the manifesto.
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson used his Twitter account to urge followers to lobby NEC members to back a public vote.
And 34 Labour candidates in the European elections have pledged to campaign for a referendum and then back efforts to remain in the EU.