20 MPs take public stand against plan
Theresa May’s Brexit plan was hanging by a thread last night as 20 Conservative MPs made a joint public commitment to scupper her proposals.
The rebels, including the former ministers Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith, joined the Stand Up 4 Brexit group, a grassroots campaign that commits supporters to ripping up the EU negotiations to date.
After the disastrous general election last year, Mrs May is vulnerable if more than seven Tory MPs decide to oppose her. Brexiteers say that they have 60 or more MPs on their side but most are unwilling yet to go public.
The Stand Up 4 Brexit signatories, who also include Conor Burns, a leading ally of Boris Johnson, have pledged to fight plans to keep EU rules on British goods, the Northern Ireland “backstop” plan and free movement, which allows EU citizens to collect benefits. This would, in effect, force Mrs May back to the drawing board to restart negotiations, which in turn would increase the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit.
David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, also promised yesterday to vote against Mrs May’s plan, describing it as “actually almost worse than being in”. Brexiteers say they will put forward alternative proposals within weeks.
Mr Davis also warned that MPs should not use the scrapping of Mrs May’s plans as a way to remove her as leader. His comments came after reports that the political strategist Sir Lynton Crosby was secretly attempting to derail her Brexit strategy and install Mr Johnson in No 10. Mr Davis told The Times: “Let me be absolutely clear. It is absolutely possible to dump Chequers without changing leader — and that’s the best way to do it. Anyone who conflates getting rid of Chequers with changing the leadership is confusing their aims.”
The deal that the prime minister hopes to strike, outlined at Chequers in July, would keep Britain in a single market for goods and promises a bespoke customs relationship with the European Union.