Rebel Tory MPs say they have ‘Commons support to keep Britain in the single market’
Rebel Conservative MPs reportedly believe they have the numbers needed in the Commons to keep Britain in the single market after Brexit.
The party’s pro-EU faction argue that with the support of Labour, the group can force Theresa May to change course in negotiations.
They say 15 Conservative backbenchers are prepared to push the Prime Minister towards remaining inside the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – which would deliver full single market access.
However the move risks being promptly scuppered, with Labour’s frontbench set to abstain on the proposal in the Lords on Tuesday, therefore stopping it returning to the Commons.
But one senior Conservative backbencher told the Independent: “Yes, we have the numbers now, but it will depend on exactly how any particular amendment is phrased.
“It’s more difficult than passing a customs union amendment, because the [Conservative] manifesto was clear about leaving the single market.
“But undoubtedly there are a group of Conservative MPs, now larger than the one who voted for similar amendments in the past, who have concluded maybe it is a way for us to go.”
MPs had previously attempted to keep Britain in the EEA or EFTA in December, however the vote was lost.
Yet another Conservative rebel told the website: “We have more numbers for this than we had at the defeat in December.
“There are a gang of people who have started saying they are keen on it, a group, up to 15 of us, who think this may well be a good way out.”
The claims come as peers prepare to vote on an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill tabled in the Lords by Labour peer Waheed Alli on Tuesday.
The party is said to believe the path of staying in the single market is “not the right one to pursue”, while Jeremy Corbyn has previously ruled out the option.
A Labour frontbench source in the Lords said the amendment would not have the party’s official support, saying: “It’s not going to go through. It’s not going to the Commons.”
However a Labour MP who wants the party’s leadership to back Lord Alli’s proposals, in order to present the issue once more in the Commons said: “If they don’t there will be a big row.
“Labour peers will be under heavy pressure to rebel.”