Theresa May has been warned the Tories will be “toast” if they fail to deliver on their Brexit promises, as eurosceptic MPs maintain the pressure on the prime minister ahead of a crunch meeting of her top team.
As the PM prepares to gather ministers at her country retreat of Chequers on Friday, she has been put on notice by the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative backbenchers.
Around 40 members of the ERG met with chief whip Julian Smith earlier on Wednesday, reports Sky’s senior political correspondent Beth Rigby.
Our correspondent said that they told him the party will be “toast” if it “welches” on its previous Brexit promises, adding that the roughly £40bn divorce bill should only be paid to Brussels on condition of getting a deal:
A Conservative MP earlier warned Mrs May it would be “catastrophic” to backslide on Brexit and that “as history shows, prime ministers keep their jobs if they keep their promises”.
The intervention from Andrea Jenkyns followed an explosive warning from ERG leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said Leave-supporting Tories could revolt against Mrs May if she fails to “stand firm for what she herself has promised”.
Mrs May has insisted she has a “strong” cabinet ahead of the Chequers showdown.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Question’s, the PM said the government is “working to deliver is a Brexit that ensures that we are out of the customs union, we are out of the single market, we are out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, we are out of the Common Agricultural Policy, we are out of the Common Fisheries Policy, we bring an end to free movement, we take control of our borders, we have an independent trade policy and that we are also able to have a good trade arrangement with the European Union, protecting jobs and prosperity of the future”.
Mrs May’s pledges to leave the EU’s single market and customs union – two key tenets of the European project – form the centrepiece of her approach to Brexit.
But MPs who voted to sever ties with Brussels fear the PM could be about to compromise on her red lines in a bid to bring the disparate factions of her cabinet into line behind a common position.
They worry such compromises – often referred to a “soft Brexit” – will leave Britain closely aligned to EU rules and restrict the UK’s freedom to strike free trade deals in the future.
In essence, Brexiteers fear Britain won’t “take back control” and we will end up with a “Brexit in name only”.
However, Remain-supporting MPs argue a pragmatic course is required to avoid disruption for businesses and problems at ports and the border between Northern Ireland the Republic – an EU member.
There is speculation the PM could be about to lay out plans for such a “soft Brexit”.
Ms Jenkyns, who resigned as a ministerial aide so she could speak more freely about the issue, said such a course would be a disaster for her party.
“If we don’t deliver Brexit, if we’re half in and half out, it’s going to be catastrophic for the Conservative Party,” she told the ConservativeHome website.
“They’re not going to trust the party.
“In our manifesto, all of us, Brexiters and Remainers, we stood on that manifesto that we would deliver Brexit.”
In a Twitter message on Monday night, Ms Jenkyns put Brexiteer cabinet ministers on notice, urging them to “show your steel” at Friday’s meeting.
“We know some of you want to be the future party leader,” she pointedly added.