Rory Stewart says no-deal will cause anger against Tories on par with hatred of Margaret Thatcher
Former Tory Cabinet minister Rory Stewart said a no-deal Brexit will lead to lasting anger against the party on a par with the resentment felt towards Margaret Thatcher.
Speaking at a cross-party group pressing for a new deal to leave the EU be put to MPs, he said the other options would leave “half the country being incredibly alienated, angry and tricked”.
Mr Stewart said Brexit is “now becoming a proxy for deeper and deeper divisions”, adding: “We need to think 30-40 years ahead and think about the kind of society we want.
“If we were to go down a no-deal Brexit we would end up with half the country very angry and alienated.
“They would feel about no deal the way that many of the people I’ve seen recently in the North East feel about Mrs Thatcher.
“Not all of it is totally based on historical details but a very, very deep story would emerge that a Tory no-deal Brexit was responsible for many, many ills.”
The group, called “MPs for a Deal”, was convened by Labour’s Caroline Flint, who said around 50 of her colleagues were willing to vote for a Withdrawal Agreement.
Those at the meeting in Parliament included current Conservatives Victoria Prentis, Jeremy Lefroy and Alex Chalk, as well as Lib Dem frontbencher Norman Lamb.
Mr Lamb agreed with Mr Stewart, saying if we end up with no-deal or Article 50 is revoked then “one side or the other is vanquished”.
Adding that in those circumstances we “run a real risk of breaking the social contract in our country between the Government and those they govern, and that could have dire consequences in the long-term for all of us”.
Meanwhile, independent Conservative Nick Boles said there is now “a major opportunity in the next five weeks” to get a deal, accusing Boris Johnson of not caring “about anything other than power and glory for himself”.
Adding: “And if he can conclude that the way to stay in Number 10 Downing Street is to pass a deal, he will do it.”
But asked if they would accept any deal brought back by Mr Johnson, Labour MP Stephen Kinnock said: “This group is not about reproducing a carbon copy of the three so-called ‘meaningful votes’ that didn’t pass.”
He added they would not back a "copy” of Theresa May’s deal, or something which “is either undeliverable or be deeply damaging to our communities, so this isn’t about carte blanche”.
But Mr Kinnock said the cross-party talks earlier this year had led to “the foundation of a deal”, adding: “This is not a unicorn.
“We have something here which is the basic foundation of a perfectly pragmatic deal that we believe can command a majority in Parliament and also begin to reunite our deeply-divided country, and even at this eleventh hour we think there is time to do it.”