Fresh pressure on Theresa May as Tory Brexiteers and DUP issue joint threat to kill off Brexit deal
Theresa May is under mounting pressure to change course on Brexit as Conservative Eurosceptics and the DUP issued a joint threat to vote down any deal she strikes with Brussels.
In a rare combined intervention, leading Brexiteer Steve Baker and the DUP’s Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson warned the Prime Minister against "placating the EU" and said they would try to kill off her plan in the Commons if Mrs May does not back down.
The threat - which focuses on the Government's efforts to solve the Northern Ireland border issue in deadlocked Brexit talks - came amid reports that the EU has rejected Mrs May's latest attempt to break the impasse.
In a joint piece for the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Baker and Mr Wilson warn the PM that they will not accept a Brexit deal "at any price and certainly not at the price of our Union".
"If the Government makes the historic mistake of prioritising placating the EU over establishing an independent and whole UK, then regrettably we must vote against the deal," the pair say.
They add: "If Parliament is forced to reject the Government’s deal, then we will once again have called the bluff of vested interest lobbyists and Whitehall scaremongers.
"And again we will have made the right choice for our democracy and our Union."
'TURNED OFF THE OXYGEN'
Both the DUP and Tory Brexiteers are opposed to current plans for a "backstop" on the Northern Ireland border which would kick in if a comprehensive deal with the EU is not reached.
They fear that the proposals as they currently stand could lead to a hard border between the province and the rest of the UK and do not provide a guaranteed exit from the EU's rules.
But, in a fresh blow for the Prime Minister, the Sunday Times reports that Brussels has rebuffed her calls for an "independent mechanism" to ensure that the UK can leave a customs arrangement with the EU if talks break down.
A string of Cabinet ministers are said to have demanded assurances that the UK will not be left tied to Brussels' customs rules indefinitely under the backstop.
But a Whitehall source told the paper that the UK's "life-support machine" plan had already been rejected by the EU, plunging the talks into crisis.
They added: "By rejecting the proposal, the EU has just turned off the oxygen."
A Downing Street source sought to downplay the report, however, saying: "We are pushing hard and Brussels is pushing hard. This is what the end-stage of negotiations looks like."
In a further sign of trouble for Mrs May, the Sun on Sunday reported that at least three more ministers are preparing to resign over her proposals.
The Government was already rocked by the unexpected departure of pro-Remain minister Jo Johnson on Friday, with the outgoing transport spokesperson vowing to vote against a deal that would leave the UK in a state of "vassalage" and demanding a fresh referendum on Brexit.
The paper names Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom as key figures considering their positions after Mr Johnson's exit.
'BIGGEST GIVEAWAY OF SOVEREIGNTY'
Fellow Remain-supporter Justine Greening meanwhile highlighted the pressure the Prime Minister faces from both wings of her party over her "worst of all worlds" deal.
The ex-Cabinet minister told the Observer that Mrs May was about to oversee the "biggest giveaway of sovereignty in modern times" and called on Tory MPs to vote down a deal.
"Like many of us, Jo Johnson is a pragmatist on Britain’s relationship with the EU," she said.
"But Conservative MPs can increasingly see that this sovereignty giveaway from No 10 leaves our country with less say over rules that govern our lives... That is not in the national interest, it’s the worst of all worlds and it resolves nothing."
More than 50 Tory MPs have already signed a public pledge vowing to vote against Mrs May's Brexit plans, making it increasingly likely she will have to rely on Labour MPs willing to defy Jeremy Corbyn to get it through Parliament.