Staunch Europhile Ken Clarke outlined some simple maths to the prime minister to highlight the fact Remainers make up the majority of the Commons.
During the weekly prime minister’s questions he urged Theresa May not to buckle under increasing pressure from Leavers to harden Brexit.
Too both cheers and catcalls the Tory grandee attacked both the ‘Bennites’ on the Labour side and ‘nationalists’ in his own party.
He said: ‘It is obvious that the biggest task facing the prime minister this winter is first to obtain a compromise agreement with the other 27 European governments on the terms of our withdrawal and then to win the approval of a majority in this House for that same agreement or something like it in a meaningful vote on the terms of our departure.
‘Does she equally accept that the maths makes it obvious that majority can only be obtained if the agreement retains the support of the pro-European Conservative backbenchers in this House and also wins the support of a significant number of Labour pro-European backbenchers on the other side of the House .. which would reveal that the hardline Eurosceptic views of the Bennites on the Labour frontbench and the right-wing nationalists in our party are a minority in this parliament … will she therefore proceed courageously on that basis in the formidable task that lies ahead?’
May replied: ‘What we are working too is to ensure we get a good agreement for the United Kingdom … When we come back with a deal I would hope that everybody will put the national interest first.’