Tory MP Anna Soubry has said she would consider jumping ship if Theresa May pushes through a hard Brexit.
The pro-European backbencher wrote in the Mail on Sunday that it was ‘not impossible’ she would leave the party – and that although that moment ‘hasn’t arrived yet’, a Tory split could be on the cards.
If Soubry were to leave, the Conservative party’s already frail minority government would get even weaker.
She added that there are many ‘moderate wise owls in the Cabinet’ to whom the PM must listen.
‘The wise owls should be ruling the roost,’ she wrote, saying that ‘hardline Brexit ideologues’ risk ‘plunging this country headlong into an economic nightmare’.
Soubry wrote: ‘I am proud of my loyalty to my party and my country.
‘People have asked me two questions, if the worst happened and we staggered recklessly towards a ‘Hard Brexit’ that would destroy the lives and livelihoods of my constituents: Could I ever see myself joining with like-minded people who want to save our country from such an appalling fate? And has that moment arrived yet?
‘The answer to the first question is “it is not impossible”; the answer to the second is “no”.
‘But I would be betraying my principles if I did not make it clear that country must always come before party.’
Although Soubry is one of the most vocal pro-EU Tory MPs, she has never been this explicit about how she could quit the party over Brexit.
It comes as a joint statement from Chancellor Philip Hammond and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox ruled out Britain staying in the EU customs union, even as part of a transitional deal.
Soubry has previously said that a good Brexit deal would have to involve the UK staying in the customs union.
And James Chapman, who was a special adviser to George Osborne and then later to David Davis, claimed last week that ministers say there is a space open for a pro-European party.
Apparently pro-EU MPs want to form a new party called the Democrats.
Although Soubry is the only MP from any party to publicly express an interest in the idea, Chapman claimed that at least two Cabinet ministers are interested.