Jacob Rees-Mogg is threatening Theresa May with a Brexit rebellion by Euro-sceptic Tory MPs that could bring down her government and force her from office.
In his most provocative challenge to the prime minister yet, the leader of Tory backbench Brexiteers says they will vote against her deal unless she delivers a hard Brexit.
His ultimatum, in a hard-hitting article in The Daily Telegraph, comes at the start of a week in which the PM will attempt to reach a Brexit deal with her cabinet at a special meeting at Chequers.
But in a chilling warning to the PM, Mr Rees-Mogg compares her plight to that of Sir Robert Peel, the Conservative prime minister forced to quit after his party revolted over the repeal of the corn laws in the 19th century.
And he serves notice that he and Brexiteer Tory MPs are prepared to rebel against the PM in commons votes on trade and customs, the Brexit “divorce bill”, migration, judicial powers and fishing.
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He also bitterly attacks pro-Remain cabinet ministers such as Business Secretary Greg Clark, the Irish government over the border row and the “metropolitan establishment” he claims is opposed to Brexit.
“At Chequers, the prime minister must stick to her ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ mantra, or risk splitting the Conservative Party like Sir Robert Peel,” Mr Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of Tory MPs, writes.
“The prime minister said, as soon as she took office, that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and in the last election, in her personal contract with the British people, she declared that we would leave the single market and the customs union.”
Threatening a backbench mutiny, he warns the PM: “Any EU agreement that restricts the country’s ability to make trade agreements with other states, restricts our ability to control our migration policy, makes us pay to trade or interferes with our fishing waters could not be accepted.
“The cabinet should agree that if there is to be a deal it has to be agreed in detail prior to our departure.
“There is no legal reason to pay £39bn to the EU on our departure and if there were no guarantee of a trade agreement it is something I would strongly oppose in any vote in the House of Commons.
“Likewise leaving the EU into the purgatory of a perpetual transition would be foolish.”
It comes as the PM’s chief Brexit official reportedly told ministers they have no chance of striking a bespoke trade deal with Brussels.
Briefing Cabinet ministers ahead of the Chequers talks on Friday, Oliver Robbins is said to have painted a bleak picture of the situation, with a source telling The Times they came out of the meeting thinking “we were even more screwed than we were before”.
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said there was “no doubt that there is strong views on either side” over Brexit in cabinet but insisted he was “confident” Mrs May’s top team could reach an agreement at the meeting.