Former ministers join forces to urge Tory MPs to have 'confidence' and back a no-deal Brexit
A string of Conservative ex-ministers have urged Tory MPs to vote against Theresa May's Brexit deal in favour of leaving the European Union without an agreement.
The group - which includes former Cabinet members David Davis, Boris Johnson and Esther McVey - say the Prime Minister must "have the confidence to leave on WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms" if Parliament rejects her deal tomorrow.
Mrs May is on course for a major defeat and will today warn that if her deal is rejected, the most likely alternative scenario is no Brexit at all.
Both the Treasury and the Bank of England have warned that a no-deal Brexit could have severe consequences for the British economy-
"A managed WTO Brexit may give rise to some short-term inconvenience and disruption, but the much greater risks arise from being locked into a very bad deal."
The letter is also signed by former Cabinet ministers Dominic Raab, Priti Patel, Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson and John Whittingdale, as well as ex-ministers Steve Baker, Shailesh Vara and Suella Braverman.
Senior Brexiteer MP Mark Francois has also put his name to the plea.
Ahead of tomorrow's crucial vote, the MPs say both the UK and EU governments are "accelerating plans for a managed no deal exit", minimising the risk of disruption at the UK's ports.
"Colleagues should be reassured by the example over the preparedness of the Calais Ports Authority," they say.
"The President of the Port of Calais and Boulogne has stated: 'We have been preparing for No Deal for one year. Additional customs declarations will in no way slow down traffic'.
"We welcome all these efforts to avoid disruption at ports, to phase in only the most necessary customs and other checks over a sensible period, to ensure flights continue uninterrupted and medicines and foodstuffs arrive unimpeded, and to underpin the rights of citizens living abroad."
They urge MPs to vote down the "flawed" agreement in a bid to "encourage the EU to renegotiate" and remove the controversial Northern Ireland backstop element which has become the central focus for critics the deal.
"In the event that the EU is unwilling to commit to this, then we can and must fulfil the democratic wishes of the people of the UK," they warn.
"That is why, if it is the only way forward, we must have the confidence to be ready to leave on WTO terms."
The group meanwhile insists that the political consequences for the Conservative party will be more severe if MPs back Mrs May's deal than if they allow a no-deal Brexit.
"It is right to vote down this bad deal and that in doing so we will unlock a better future for our party, our country and its people," they say.
"It will not lead to no Brexit or to an early General Election. Indeed, it would be by agreeing to this punative [sic] and highly one-sided deal that we would do most damage to the Conservative Party’s prospects at the next election."
The joint letter comes amid reports that the European Union stands ready to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit if MPs reject Mrs May's agreement in the Commons tomorrow.
The Prime Minister will meanwhile today warn parliamentarians that they could do "catastrophic" damage to the public's faith in democracy if they fail to back her Brexit deal.