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Battle lines drawn in Tory civil war as former Brexit minister warns May of ‘catastrophic split’ (The Independent)

Conservative MP Steve Baker at his High Wycombe office ( Rex )

Steve Baker tells prime minister to drop Chequers plan or face Conservative grassroots revolt.

A senior Eurosceptic Tory MP has warned Theresa May she has until the Conservatives’ annual conference later this month to drop her Chequers plan or face a “catastrophic split” in the party.

Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister, said Ms May faced ”a massive problem” because Tory party members do not support her Brexit blueprint.

He called the plan “not acceptable” and claimed the lack of parliamentary support for it would undermine the UK’s position in negotiations with the EU.

Mr Baker, a senior figure in the European Research Group (ERG) of Tory Brexiteers, quit the government in July in protest at the Chequers plan, which would see the UK continue to follow EU rules on the trade of goods.

The ERG is demanding Ms May ditch her proposals and instead seek to negotiate a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU.

The row over the terms of Brexit is set to dominate the agenda when the Tories gather in Birmingham for their annual conference from 30 September.

With just 200 days to go until Britain leaves the EU, Mr Baker, a former chairman of the ERG, said Ms May would be undermined in negotiations if she pushes ahead with proposals she is unlikely to get through Parliament.

At least 60 Tory MPs are said to be ready to vote against the Chequers plan, which was agreed by ministers at the prime minister’s country residence in July.

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