Conservative MPs to challenge Theresa May to accept a no-deal Brexit

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg

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Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg
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Reuters / Simon Dawson

  • The influential Tory Brexiteer group of backbench MPs, the European Research Group, is drawing up its own “Brexit white paper” backing a no-deal scenario, according to reports.
  • The paper will reportedly be an alternative to May’s unpopular “Chequers” plan and designed as a show of strength by pro-Brexit backbench MPs.
  • It will reportedly say Britain could pursue a Canada-style free trade agreement but only if the EU backs down on demands over the Irish border.
  • If the EU fails to back down, it will say Britain can thrive on World Trade Organisation terms.

LONDON – Conservative Brexiteers plan to challenge Theresa May directly by drawing up a plan outlining a “positive” blueprint for leaving the EU with no deal, according to a report.

Leave-supporting Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg is organising the policy paper, which will outline the advantages to Britain of leaving the European Union on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, the Times reported.

It is likely to have the backing of between 60 and 80 MPs, many of whom belong from the European Research Group which Rees-Mogg chairs, and it is scheduled to be released just days before the Conservative party conference in September, piling pressure on Theresa May.

The paper is reportedly still being developed, but it is understood to allow for a Canada-style free trade agreement only if the EU backs down on its demands over the Irish border. If the EU fails to back down, the paper will say Britain could thrive on WTO terms with no UK-EU deal.

Ambushing May

The plan amounts to a bid to ambush Theresa May at the Conservative party conference in September.

May unveiled her own Brexit blueprint – known as the Chequers proposal – but it is hated by many pro-Brexit M{s who believe it will keep the UK tied to EU rules indefinitely.

May’s aides are reportedly fearful of the plan because it will prevent Brussels from engaging with her own proposals seriously, as it could indicate that she does not have the majority to force any deal she strikes through parliament.

Her plans are also unpopular among grassroots Tories, which has raised alarm as MPs return to their constituences during recess. The Conservative party has been urging local associations to back May’s Chequers deal on the doorstep but they are unwilling to because members have reacted to the plan with surprising hostility.

But the government’s own forecasts have found that a no-deal Brexit of the kind championed by Rees-Mogg would likely have a highly damaging effect on the economy.

A leaked Treasury forecast found that such a scenario, where the UK reverted to WTO trade rules, would reduce growth by 8% over the next 15 years.