Opposing groups of Tory backbenchers launched rival bids to shape Theresa May’s Brexit plans on Wednesday, as the Prime Minister attempted to salvage a withdrawal deal with the EU.
Prominent Conservative eurosceptics led by Jacob Rees Mogg ambushed Ms May in the Commons to push her into a harder position amid the fallout of the row over the Irish border.
Meanwhile, another group of Tories who previously backed remain, including three ex-cabinet ministers, wrote to the Prime Minister urging her to put the interests of the UK economy first.
It comes as Ms May finally had a phone call with DUP leader Arlene Foster on Wednesday, after her eleventh hour blocking of the Prime Minister’s attempt to gain a withdrawal deal.
Ms Foster had feared Ms May’s proposed Brexit settlement would see her compromise, by allowing Northern Ireland to remain in regulatory alignment with the EU. David Davis went further and said the whole UK could stay in regulatory alignment with the EU.
At Prime Minister’s Questions Tory Brexiteers who want the UK to break free from EU regulation, reminded Ms May of her stated intention to leave the customs union.
Among them was Mr Rees Mogg, talked of as potential future leader, who said: “Before (Ms May) next goes to Brussels, will she apply a new coat of paint to her red lines?
“Because I fear on Monday they were beginning to look a little bit pink.”
The Prime Minister said the principles on which the Government is negotiating were set out in her Lancaster House and Florence speeches.
But eurosceptic Bernard Jenkin MP stood up to hit home on the same issue, saying: “Would [she] confirm that she is aware of the very strong enthusiasm for free trade deals with the UK from countries like Canada, Japan, the United States, Australia and even for participations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“But none of these opportunities will come our way if we remain shackled to EU regulation after we’ve left the EU.”
He was later joined by Peter Bone MP who reminded Ms May that the public had voted to leave the EU’s regulatory regime and offered to negotiate with the Prime Minister in Brussels if it would help.
From the other side 19 MPs wrote to the PM condemning their Brexiteer colleagues as “highly irresponsible” for urging her to walk away from the negotiating table.
Jacob Rees Mogg says May’s Brexit ‘red lines looking pink’