David Davis has fuelled the growing rebellion against Theresa May by sending a letter to all Tory MPs urging them to ‘chuck Chequers’.
The former Brexit secretary warns of ‘dire’ consequences for the Conservatives at the next general election if May’s plan is not thrown out.
Davis said a Chequers deal would deliver ‘none of the benefits of Brexit’ and reduce the UK to being ‘a rule-taker from Brussels’.
He said that if a deal of this kind is struck, it will be ‘very obvious’ to voters at the next general election that the government had broken promises from the 2017 Conservative manifesto and the prime minister’s Lancaster House speech setting out her Brexit ‘red lines’.
He repeated his call for the cabinet to ditch the Chequers plan, which envisages a free trade area for goods based on a ‘common rulebook’, and go for a looser free trade agreement like the Ceta deal between the EU and Canada.
In his letter Davis said the EU was likely either to reject the Chequers proposals at next week’s crunch summit in Brussels, or to demand ‘further significant concessions’.
But he said a ‘Canada-plus-plus-plus’ deal was ‘within our grasp with political will and imagination’.
And he told fellow MPs: ‘If we stay on our current trajectory, we will go into the next election with the Government having delivered none of the benefits of Brexit, with the country reduced to being a rule-taker from Brussels, and having failed to deliver on a number of promises in the manifesto and in the Lancaster House speech.
‘This will not be a technicality, it will be very obvious to the electorate.
‘The electoral consequences could be dire.
‘So it is in both the party’s interest, and crucially the national interest, that we reset our negotiating strategy immediately and deliver a Brexit that meets the demands of the referendum and the interests of the British people.’
He cautioned May against using ‘preposterous threats’ that a refusal by Tory MPs to back Chequers could result in Brexit being lost altogether or watered down in order to get it through parliament on the back of Labour votes.
Davis’s letter came after Prime Minister was warned that she faces a Commons rebellion of at least 40 Conservative MPs if she returns from Brussels with a deal based on her Chequers plan, leaving the UK ‘half in, half out’ of the EU.
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that as many as 80 Tories are ready to oppose the plan agreed by cabinet at May’s country residence in July, adding: ‘The whips would be doing incredibly well if they were to halve the numbers.’