MPs should be locked up in parliament until they can decide what to do about Brexit, Prisons Minister Rory Stewart has said.
The ally of Theresa May said his “fantasy dream scenario” would be for speaker John Bercow to keep Brexiteer and Remainer MPs in the Commons chamber until they can thrash out a compromise.
It comes after Theresa May was forced into a humiliating climbdown on Monday when she announced the so-called meaningful vote on her Brexit deal could not go ahead and she acknowledged it faced a resounding defeat.
The DUP, and many Tory Brexiteers, fiercely oppose the Northern Irish backstop proposal while Labour and the SNP want a stronger customs and single market deal.
The gathering imagined by Stewart would be similar to how cardinals sit together in the Vatican before a puff of white smoke signals they have chosen a new pope. The longest papal conclave lasted four years (1268-41) – in which three cardinals died and one resigned.
Asked about Bercow’s fierce criticism of the government for cancelling Tuesday’s vote on May’s Brexit deal, Stewart told the BBC: “I don’t think the speaker is the problem here. In a fantasy dream scenario I would be using the speaker to lock all the MPs up in the chamber for as long as it takes for a papal vote until we come to some sort of agreement on this.”
During the interview with Radio 4′s World At One, Stewart also appealed to Boris Johnson, and other opponents of the prime minister’s Northern Irish backstop plan, to “hold to their word” and back the government’s if May wins concessions from Brussels this week.
Jacob Rees-Mogg told HuffPost UK after a meeting of the hardline Brexiteer Tory MPs, the European Research Group, on Monday, however, that the backstop should be removed “in its entirety” and that leave-backing MPs would oppose the deal’s £39billion divorce bill.
Stewart said the PM was “aiming to get some shift” from the EU that would bring “sensible people on side”.
He also held out an olive branch to moderate Labour MPs, saying: “I would hope that people like Boris, who have said that their problem is only with the backstop and they could live with the deal if the backstop were changed, hold to their word and we can get them and other colleagues to come on board.
“The second group we are going to have to reach out to is the DUP and the third group [...] it would be great if we can to embrace some of the moderate Labour MPs who believe that we should have a moderate pragmatic Brexit deal, and by doing so get a majority in the House of Commons.”