Theresa May has been urged by a senior Tory MP to face down the “Mogglodytes” on the Conservative benches and “go down fighting” rather than lead the UK into a so-called hard Brexit.
Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the Commons health committee, said on Sunday the prime minister will face a leadership challenge from the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg even if she sides with them against the more pro-EU Tory MPs.
In a series of Tweets, she said she “no longer” believed “the divisions in either Party can be healed” and May had to “make a choice”.
Wollaston’s intervention came as Anna Soubry, one of the most pro-Remain Tory MPs, warned the prime minister there was no Commons majority for taking the UK out of the single market and customs union.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Soubry suggested her allies on the Conservative benches could join with pro-EU Labour MPs to vote down May’s deal.
“If this government doesn’t get this right, the majority of members of parliament, putting their constituents first, will find themselves unable to vote for a withdrawal agreement,” she said.
Soubry, like Wollaston, wants the UK to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) after Brexit in order to open up access to the EU single market.
Appearing alongside Soubry, Labour MP Chuka Umunna added: “There is no majority in the House of Commons for us simply to jump off a cliff.”
The cabinet failed to agree a unified position on Brexit during two days of meetings last week.
May is now reported to have ordered ministers to an away-day meeting at the end of next week at Chequers, her official country residence, in order to hash out an agreement.
Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary who campaigned for Brexit, promised today that the government would finally put “meat on the bones” of its Brexit plan when a series of ministers deliver set-piece speeches in the coming weeks.
However amid deep splits in the Conservative Party, David Gauke, the justice secretary, was forced to deny Philip Hammond had been “silenced” by Downing Street.
The chancellor infuriated pro-Brexit Tory MPs when he said he wanted only “modest” changes to the UK’s relationship with the EU after it left.
John McDonnell today said he would rather have a general election than a second EU referendum.
The shadow chancellor, Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand man, said another Brexit referendum would cause divisions again and the “better route” is to have a general election.
In the first of the planned speeches by cabinet ministers, Boris Johnson will on Wednesday call for national unity over withdrawal.
This will be followed on Saturday by May detailing the “security partnership” the UK wants to maintain with the EU.
Brexit Secretary David Davis and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will also set out their agendas,
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, who backed Remain in the referendum, will also deliver a speech.
May will then round off the process in an address setting out how she sees the overall relationship between Britain and Brussels after withdrawal.