Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has signalled that he may support Theresa May’s deal, promoting fury from Brexit hardliners.
Mr Rees-Mogg said the prime minister’s Brexit deal was “better than not leaving at all” amid the fallout from a dramatic night in the Commons, where MPs voted to seize control of the process from the government.
Brexit campaigners Leave.EU accused the Tories of choosing to “stab us in the back” rather than respect the result of the Brexit referendum.
It comes after Ms May suffered another humiliating blow to her authority on Monday, as three ministers resigned to support an amendment tabled by Tory grandee Sir Oliver Letwin, enabling MPs to take control of the parliamentary agenda to stage a series of “indicative votes” on alternatives to her deal.
Speaking on his ConservativeHome podcast, the European Research Group chairman said: “The prime minister will not deliver a no-deal Brexit.”
Asked if that meant the options were now “deal or potentially no Brexit”, he said: “That I think, becomes the choice eventually.
“Whether we are there yet is another matter, but I have always thought that no-deal is better than Ms May’s deal, but Ms May’s deal is better than not leaving at all.”
Mr Rees-Mogg also said Brexit may now be a “process rather than an event”, suggesting it could take time to fully break away from Brussels.
Leave.EU tweeted: “The Conservatives depend on our votes. Instead of respecting our decision to leave the EU, they have chosen to stab us in the back.”
His support would be a significant boost to the prime minister, who was forced to admit that she lacked the support needed to bring her Brexit deal back to the Commons for the third time.
To have a chance of success, she needs to win over the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a string of Labour Leavers and the Tory Brexiteers, with whom Mr Rees-Mogg’s views carry weight.
Tory MP Michael Fabricant, another Brexiteer, said he would also back the PM’s deal as the “least worst option” for Brexit.
He said: “This is the dreadful conclusion I came to too – and said so at the ERG. A new PM can then negotiate a better and more distanced relationship with the EU after Brexit.
“(Of course this is the least worst option but the only practical way forward for now.)”
Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, who resigned from cabinet over Ms May’s Brexit strategy, also appear to have shifted to back the deal, along with Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski.
However Ms May will still have to convince dozens of Tory MPs to support her deal to have a hope of victory, if indeed she is able to bring the deal back to parliament.
It comes as the Commons was gearing up to vote on a series of Brexit scenarios on Wednesday, with further time expected on Monday to whittle down the number of options under consideration.
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