The Tories will suffer a “dire” general election defeat if Theresa May pushes ahead with her current Brexit plans, former Cabinet minister David Davis has warned.
The ex-Brexit secretary issued his stark prediction in a letter urging all Conservative MPs to back a loose free trade deal with the EU, rather than the PM’s Chequers compromise proposals.
Davis’s move came as backbencher Brexiteers underlined they had the numbers needed to defeat May’s ‘half-in, half-out’ plans in a Commons vote due later this year.
In a further blow to No.10, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) also warned that it should not try to “bounce” its MPs into backing the government’s plans to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Davis, who quit his post this summer, underlined his strong opposition to the current proposals.
“If we stay on our current trajectory we will go into the next election with the government having delivered none of the benefits of Brexit, with the country reduced to being a rule-taker from Brussels, and having failed to deliver on a number of promises in the manifesto and in the Lancaster House speech,” he wrote.
“This will not be a technicality, it will be very obvious to the electorate. The electoral consequences could be dire.”
Davis added that it was “in the party’s interest and the national interest” to “reset” the UK’s negotiating strategy “immediately”.
Davis told HuffPost UK last month that a ‘rock solid core’ of 40 MPs was ready to vote against their government on Brexit.
Responding to Davis’ letter, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman pointed out that the Canada-plus deal was not on offer from the EU. “The letter doesn’t change any of that.”
A political spokesman in No.10 added: “He’s saying there would be dire consequences to not following a plan that isn’t on offer.
“As the PM has said, ours is the only plan on the table that delivers the will of the people and takes back control of our money, borders and laws and that does so in a way that protects jobs and the union.”
DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson told the BBC that his party “have got to see the text, we’ve got to be happy with the text” of any agreement on Northern Ireland.
Earlier, at a press conference in Brussels, DUP leader Arlene Foster said she could not accept any new regulatory checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a move that some in No.10 see as a way through the deadlock.
“Why would we need checks between GB and Northern Ireland or between Northern Ireland and GB if we were an integral part of the single market of the United Kingdom?” she said.