Former Brexit secretary David Davis has warned of “dire” consequences for Conservatives at the next general election if the Government sticks to its negotiating stance on EU withdrawal.
In a letter to fellow Tory MPs, Mr Davis said a deal based on Theresa May’s Chequers plan would deliver “none of the benefits of Brexit” and reduce the UK to being “a rule-taker from Brussels”.
Mr Davis said, 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”.
It comes as Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney warned of “carnage” if Britain crashed out of the EU but said he believed it was “unlikely” that would happen.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, meanwhile, said differences remained between the UK and EU on the withdrawal agreement but insisted “we are closing in on workable solutions”.
Mr Davis 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, obtained by The Sun, Mr Davis said that the EU was likely either to reject the Chequers proposals at next week’s crunch summit in Brussels, or to demand “further significant concessions”.
🚨 DD writes to Tory MPs to say May is heading for defeat at next election because of her Brexit policy.... pic.twitter.com/nV4WvEN2mJ— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) October 9, 2018
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.”
Continuing discussions with Northern Irish political leaders today: @DUPleader, @DianeDoddsMEP & @RobinSwannUUP, @JNicholsonMEP. Working hard to explain and de-dramatise the backstop #Brexit pic.twitter.com/JLW2oQNYzG— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) October 9, 2018
Mrs May told her Cabinet that Britain will not accept an EU withdrawal deal without a “precise” political declaration setting out how its requirements on trade and security will be delivered.
Despite optimistic comments from senior EU figures about the prospect of progress at the October 17-18 European Council summit, the PM made clear that agreement has not yet been reached on key issues including the Irish border.
Mr Coveney said the EU had significantly shifted its thinking on the backstop since it was agreed in principle with the UK in December and it was up to Britain to provide fresh proposals.
He said: “If Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal on anything, then you are talking about carnage in that scenario, particularly for Britain.
“I believe that is a very unlikely scenario.
“Certainly I will work, and have been working with the EU task force, to make sure that does not materialise.”
Mr Raab “categorically” ruled out an indefinite customs union to resolve Irish border difficulties in the Brexit talks and said the UK must hold its nerve in the final stages of the talks.
He added: “It is time for the EU to match the ambition and the pragmatism that we have shown.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose MPs prop up the minority Conservative administration in the Commons, closed down one mooted avenue for compromise by insisting her party will not accept customs or regulatory checks on goods travelling in either direction between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Reports had suggested that deadlock over the so-called “backstop” arrangements for Ireland could be broken by permitting checks on exports from the mainland to the north, but not in the opposite direction.
“There cannot be any customs or regulatory barriers between ourselves and the rest of the United Kingdom, both ways,” said Mrs Foster following talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.
“It’s not just a case of regulations between Northern Ireland and GB, it’s also between GB and Northern Ireland. We’ve made that very clear.
“The Prime Minister understands our position and I expect her to respect that position.”
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who campaigned for Leave in the referendum, said Mrs May “has my support and I am not in any way expecting that situation to change”.
But she suggested that the Prime Minister may have to amend her Chequers plan to get a final deal, saying that “we don’t know where this is going to end up”.