As many as 80 Conservative MPs have warned they are prepared to vote against the prime minister’s Chequers deal, a former Brexit minister has said.
Steve Baker, who quit the May government over the plan alongside David Davis and Boris Johnson, said he was “gravely concerned” about the future of his party and warned of a “massive problem” for the prime minister at the party conference later this month.
In an interview with th Press Association, the former chairman of the Eurosceptic group the European Research Group (ERG) warned the Tory party will suffer a “catastrophic split” if May sticks with the Chequers plan.
On Sunday, details of the ERG’s own plans for a future Brexit deal were leaked to the press and included a variety of propositions including tax cuts, a Canada-style trade deal, a military expeditionary force to defend the Falklands, and a domestic-built missile defence system. However, the plan offers no plans on how to solve the question of a hard border in Ireland, which remains one of the most difficult questions to solve for any Brexit deal.
The ERG plans to publish the finalised version of its Brexit proposal before the Conservative party conference at the end of September.
The warnings of a Tory rebellion follows the publication of a controversial column by polemicist Boris Johnson in the Mail on Sunday, where he described the Chequers plan as a “suicide vest” around the UK, with the detonator in Brussels’ hands. His language has been criticised by a variety of Tory MPs, but he managed to change the debate and propel himself further towards a leadership bid for the party.
Johnson and his friends in the ERG have failed to demonstrate a majority of voters ever wanted a hard Brexit, and opinion polls have started to turn against both Brexit with growing support for a people’s vote on the final deal.
The UK is due to leave the EU in 200 days time on 29 March 2019.