Tory civil war erupts as MPs warn Theresa May against ‘highly irresponsible’ hard Brexit
More than a dozen Conservative MPs have written to Theresa May urging her to ignore those within the party trying to “impose their own conditions” on Brexit talks.
In a fresh sign of Tory infighting, 19 MPs backing a “soft Brexit” warned the Prime Minister against dancing to the tune of "highly irresponsible" colleagues underplaying the downsides of a no deal outcome.
The MPs – among them former ministers Stephen Crabb, Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan – hit out at the hardline Brexiteers who believe leaving the EU without a deal would result in "some status quo which the UK simply opts to adopt”.
“We wish to make it clear that we are disappointed yet again that some MPs and others seek to impose their own conditions on these negotiations,” they wrote in a letter.
“In particular, it is highly irresponsible to seek to dictate terms which could lead to the UK walking away from these negotiations.”
The letter comes amid deadlock between UK and the EU over the issue of the Irish border, after the DUP refused to back differing trade regulations between Great Britain and the island of Ireland as a whole.
Hardline Brexiteers have since ramped up the pressure on the Prime Minister, including Iain Duncan Smith, who on Tuesday said the UK should consider walking away from talks soon if the EU did not allow negotiators to move on to the next phase by next week's EU Council meeting.
Bernard Jenkin told the BBC's Today programme that it is the letter's signatories who are thinking of voting against the Government, adding: "I think that's unhelpful".
Elsewhere, vocal pro-Brexit backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg warned Mrs May yesterday that her negotiating red lines "were beginning to look a bit pink" after her hopes of a breakthrough were dashed.
And Peter Bone, in what looked further like an orchestrated attempt to make the Prime Minister to hold firm with Brussels said the UK “voted to stop sending billions and billions of pounds to the EU each and every year and they voted to make our laws in our own country judged by our own judges.”
However those behind the letter say the cloud of “uncertainty” for business and EU nationals should mean the Prime Minister takes “whatever time is necessary” to strike agreement with the bloc.
"Those who say that if such an outcome happens the UK will ‘revert to World Trade Organisation’ rules deliberately make it sound as if some status quo which the UK simply opts to adopt," they add.
"They miss the many business and other voices who have made it clear that a ‘no deal post March 2019 scenario would lead to great uncertainty for EU citizens living here and UK citizens living in the EU, higher costs and reduced choice for consumers, disruption at our ports and borders and grave questions about how cross-border contracts are to be fulfilled."
The warning from Mrs May’s colleagues coincides with fresh pressure from the Lords, who say a no-deal Brexit would "deeply damage" the UK, economically, as well as areas such as aviation, counter terrorism and nuclear safety.
The report said it would be "difficult, if not impossible, to envisage a worse outcome for the UK" than a no-deal scenario.
And in a further blow to the Prime Minister they said striking a deal by the planned March 2019 departure date would be "impossible", and warned that enshrining it into domestic law would "not be in the national interest".