The Conservative party will face “oblivion” unless it satisfies Brexit Party voters’ desire for a hard withdrawal from the EU, a senior MP has warned amid suggestions of a Tory pact with Nigel Farage’s outfit.
Arch-Eurosceptic Steve Baker called for a “reconciliation” between the parties after his Tory colleague, the former minister Crispin Blunt, urged an electoral pact with the Brexit Party.
It came as Theresa May was warned by a member of the Tories’ 1922 committee executive that she could face moves to oust her as soon as Thursday if she does not set a date for her departure.
The prime minister’s leadership is hanging by a thread with EU withdrawal delayed until October 31 and talks on a cross-party deal with Labour making little progress.
The situation has angered Leavers and left the Tories facing a mauling in the May 23 European elections, with Farage’s Brexit Party topping some opinion polls as the main beneficiaries.
It prompted Blunt to call for a general election pact with Farage if the Tories elect a Brexiteer to replace May.
“If we under a new leader reinvent ourselves as a Brexit party, we will be faced with the inevitability at some point of a general election in order to deliver Brexit,” he told BBC Newsnight.
“The Conservatives … are almost certainly going to have to go into some kind of electoral arrangement with the Brexit Party, otherwise Brexit doesn’t happen.”
Reacting to his comments, Baker, a key figure in the backbench Tory European Research Group (ERG), told HuffPost UK: “It’s clear the Conservative party faces oblivion if it does not deliver a Brexit worth having and worth having in the opinion of Brexit Party voters.
“There will have to be a reconciliation if our country is to leave well into a decent, open and free system of government.”
It came as Nigel Evans, a member of the 1922 executive, vowed to try and accelerate moves to oust May if she did not give a clear timetable for her departure in a meeting with the committee on Thursday.
Under current rules, May cannot face a formal leadership challenge until December – a year after she survived a Christmas confidence vote.
But Evans said he would demand an immediate vote of the 1922 executive on suspending the rules to allow another challenge now if the PM did not give a clear timetable.
“I will be pushing very strongly for a suspending of the rules after the meeting depending on what she says,” he said.
Meanwhile, other Tories criticised Blunt, with one telling HuffPost UK his suggestion of a pact with the Brexit Party was “so much the wrong response it’s hard to know where to start”.
The unnamed moderate MP went on: “A no-deal Brexit doesn’t command a consensus and it seems a customs union will struggle too but also long term appealing to the Brexit Party does nothing to renew our voter base - ever!”
Paul Scully, Conservative vice-chair for London, said: “A deal is too simplistic and doesn’t take into account the detail of how we leave and the parliamentary arithmetic that we face.”
But Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely said it was impossible to predict the dynamics of the next election when there was still so much uncertainty over Brexit.
Of a pact with Farage, he said: “It probably won’t fly, however the landscape may look very different in two years, the next election is largely dependent on factors that haven’t played out yet.”
It came after 13 former ministers and 1922 chair Sir Graham Brady wrote to May warning her she will split the party if she concedes to Labour’s demands for a customs union.
In an attempt to calm fears, Number 10 sources insisted the government would not sign up to a “permanent” customs union and any compromise position may only be an “interim” measure.
Meanwhile, May’s chief negotiator Olly Robbins was heading back to Brussels for talks about the possibility of making changes to the political declaration - the document setting out the framework for the future UK-EU relationship after Brexit.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said it would take around 48 hours to add a customs union to the framework.