Top Tories urge Theresa May to reject Labour Brexit demands or split the Conservative Party
Senior Conservatives have urged Theresa May to reject Labour's central Brexit demand or risk losing the "loyal middle" of the party.
In a stark warning that piles pressure on the Prime Minister to abandon talks with Labour, 14 top Tories including 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady have signed a letter calling on her "not to agree any customs union" with Jeremy Corbyn.
Each of the signatories - who include ex-Cabinet ministers Sir Michael Fallon, David Davis, Boris Johnson, Esther McVey, Dominic Raab, John Whittingdale and the recently-sacked Gavin Williamson - voted for Mrs May's deal the last time it was defeated in the Commons.
But in their letter, seen by The Times, the group warns the Prime Minister that signing up to a customs union with the EU would represent "both bad policy and bad politics" and leave the UK "stuck in the worst of both worlds" by undermining its ability to strike independent trade deals.
They also point out that the Government was elected in 2017 on a Tory manifesto pledging to quit the customs union.
"The Government is now contemplating making a deal with the most left-wing Labour Party in its history to break that solemn promise," the group warns.
"We believe that a customs union-based deal with Labour will very likely lose the support of Conservative MPs, like us, who backed the Withdrawal Agreement in March (in many cases very reluctantly), and you would be unlikely to gain as many Labour MPs to compensate.
"More fundamentally, you would have lost the loyal middle of the Conservative Party, split our party and with likely nothing positive to show for it."
In a move likely to increase Labour's wariness about signing up to an agreement with the Government, the signatories also argue that any deal Mrs May strikes could be undone by the next Tory leader.
"No leader can bound his or her successor, so the deal would likely be at best temporary, at worst illusory," they warn.
The Tory MPs add: "We urge you to think again, and for the Conservative Party to stay true to our principles and promises, and to reject a customs union solution with Labour."
Former ministers Maria Miller, Grant Shapps, Robert Halfon, Greg Hands, Iain Duncan Smith and Mark Harper have also put their names to the letter.
ROBBINS IN BRUSSELS
The hard-hitting intervention comes despite the Prime Minister's top Brexit negotiator being dispatched to Brussels on Tuesday to explore changes to the political declaration on Britain's future relationship with the EU - one of Labour's demand in the Brexit talks.
The BBC reports that Olly Robbins will use the trip to ask his European counterparts how quickly changes could be made to the political declaration element of the Brexit agreement if Labour and the Government strikes a deal.
The latest round of talks broke up on Monday night with sources saying no "substantive progress" had been made.
In a sign that a deal remains elusive, no further discussions between the two sides have been pencilled in.