Theresa May is battling to keep her Brexit agenda on track as MPs are again set to clash over the Prime Minister’s EU withdrawal plan after inflicting major defeats on the Government.
As the Commons prepared for a second of five days of debate on Mrs May’s controversial Brexit deal on Wednesday, a Tory former chief whip broke ranks and said he would vote against the proposals.
Mark Harper, who backed Remain in the referendum, insisted the EU agreement would leave the UK worse off.
Forecasting that Mrs May would lose the crunch Brexit vote next Tuesday by more than 80 votes, Mr Harper urged the PM to renegotiate the deal.
The comments came in the wake of a humiliating set of Commons defeats for Mrs May which saw the Government forced to allow MPs to have a say in what happens next if the Brexit deal is voted down on Tuesday.
Ministers also had to agree to publish the “final and full” legal advice to Cabinet on the withdrawal agreement as the Government was found to be in contempt of Parliament for not already doing so.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Harper said: “The Cabinet’s proposals are not acceptable because they threaten the integrity of our country, keep us trapped indefinitely in a customs union and leave us in a weak negotiating position for our future relationship.”
Mr Harper sharply criticised plans for an Irish border ‘backstop’ arrangement.
He said: “The Prime Minister said that the EU’s proposal would undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, and no UK prime minister could ever agree to it.
“However, regrettably, the Withdrawal Agreement that is currently in front of us does exactly this.
“I’m just very disappointed that as a loyal MP I’ve found myself in this situation, that in order to keep to the promises we made just last year in the general election, I’ve been forced to vote against the Cabinet’s proposals.
“Keeping promises in politics is important and I think many colleagues also feel they have been misled.”
Education Secretary Damian Hinds told BBC2’s Newsnight that the “difficulties” endured by the Government would help “focus minds” of Tory MPs.
“There is one deal on the table. If that were not to be passed, then I think we go into a period of some uncertainty about what would happen instead.”
He added: “If we don’t get this deal, there are two other things could happen: either you could have no deal and that would not be good for us, or you might end up with no Brexit at all.
“And for individual MPs, we can’t guarantee which of those other two alternatives might happen if the deal doesn’t go through.”
Ministers were expected to set out on Wednesday how the highly sensitive legal advice provided to the Cabinet by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox on the withdrawal deal will be made public.