Ken Clarke has said he hopes to force “ultra right-wing” Conservative members of the Cabinet to reject a no deal Brexit.
An amendment to the government’s EU Withdrawal Bill tabled by the former Tory chancellor and Labour MP Chris Leslie would write Theresa May’s plan for a two year transition period into the legislation.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Monday morning, Clarke said his plan was to “protect the best economic advantages” for the UK when it leaves the EU.
“It is not the aim of my amendment to reverse leaving. I have accepted the vast majority of MPs think they are bound by this referendum and therefore we are gong to leave. We are going to lave the political institutions of the EU.”
However he said this did not mean the UK had to crash out of the bloc with no trade deal.
“If we amend this Bill properly we can start binding in the ultra-right members of the Cabinet and the ultra-left members of the shadow cabinet,” he said.
Clarke, arguably the most pro-Remain Tory MP, added that in theory parliament “can veto anything it wants” and a majority of MPs would be opposed to a a no deal Brexit.
May is heading to Brussels on Monday for Brexit talks with EU chiefs. She will meet Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and chief negotiator Michel Barnier just days after they said exit negotiations were deadlocked.
The prime minister, who will be joined by Brexit Secretary David Davis, is expected to have discussions with European counterparts over the coming days ahead of a meeting of all EU leaders later in the week.
Barnier raised concerns about a “disturbing” deadlock over the size of Britain’s “divorce bill” and said there had not been sufficient progress for him to be able to recommend moving on to the second phase of negotiations, covering trade.
Juncker said the Brexit process will take “longer than we initially thought”, blaming delays on Britain’s failure to settle its financial obligations.