Ken Clarke has called on MPs to “rise above tribal arguments” to achieve a “cross-party” agreement on what sort of Brexit Theresa May should try and negotiate with Brussels.
The veteran europhile Tory MP said with Brexit, May faced a “bigger test than any prime minister has faced in my lifetime” and than the Conservatives and Labour Party should work together in the “national interest”.
“Both major parties are helplessly split on the issue,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “The public are very disillusioned with knockabout party politics.
“I think we would restore confidence in politics if we could show that this parliament can at least function in presenting a view in the national interest which could command a majority on a cross-party basis,” he said.
“There must be a majority for something, nobody knows quite what it is. That is probably helpful,” he said.
May is coming under intense pressure to change her approach to leaving the EU, with David Cameron among those suggesting a softer stance with a greater effort to seek a consensus.
“It’s going to be difficult, there’s no doubt about that, but perhaps an opportunity to consult more widely with the other parties on how best we can achieve it,” he said at a conference in Poland, the Financial Times reported.
The moves on Brexit come as talks between the Tories and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) aimed at shoring up May’s position in Parliament continue today.
The prime minister needs the votes of the 10 DUP MPs to prop up her minority administration as she hopes to steer government business - including crucial measures on Brexit - through the Commons.
Talks with the DUP to secure her government broke up on Tuesday night without an agreement, but May said the discussions had been “productive”.
Clarke told the BBC that he believed May’s position was Tory leader was safe for the moment. “I can’t see for the life of me anyone else who could conceivably take over as prime minister at the moment,” he said.
Jeremy Corbyn told Labour MPs last night that May had no mandate and no legitimacy, as he declared “we are now a government in waiting”.
He said Labour would remain on a general election footing due to the instability of the minority Tory government.