Theresa May has been warned that a lengthy delay to Brexit could destroy the Conservative Party, with a minister claiming it would be a Tory suicide note if the UK had to fight the European elections.
The stark warning about the seismic changes to British politics that would be unleashed if the May 23 European Parliament elections went ahead came as the Government sought to revive talks with Labour aimed at finding a Brexit compromise.
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the situation needed to be resolved quickly in order to avoid the existential threat posed if the UK remained in the EU at the time of the elections next month.
It would be, I think, a suicide note of the Conservative Party if we had to fight the European elections, he said.
He said that if Labour could not sign up to a joint approach, then MPs should be forced to find a compromise through a preferential voting system in order to resolve the situation.
We need to do that quickly because, I think, going into the EU elections for the Conservative Party, or indeed for the Labour Party, and telling our constituents why we haven’t been able to deliver Brexit, I think would be an existential threat, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Downing Street has offered further talks with the Opposition this weekend after efforts to find a breakthrough stalled, but Labour said the Prime Minister had to come forward with genuine changes.
Chancellor Philip Hammond insisted the Government had no red lines in the talks and he was optimistic that we will reach some form of agreement with Labour.
At a meeting of EU finance ministers in Bucharest, he said: The conversations with the Labour Party are continuing, they were continuing last night, we are expecting to exchange some more texts with the Labour Party today.
Asked about the prospect of a second referendum, he said: We should try to complete this process in Parliament, that’s the right way to do it. But we should be open to listen to suggestions that others have made.
European leaders are considering Mrs May’s request for another delay to Brexit, with a decision expected at Wednesday’s emergency summit in Brussels.
Mrs May has asked for a delay until June 30 but wants to terminate any extension before the European polls if she is able to get a deal through Parliament.
Mrs May has already obtained one extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process, postponing the date of Brexit from March 29 to April 12.
Mr Hammond acknowledged the frustration with the British among the 27 other EU members.
Most of the colleagues that I am talking to accept that we will need longer to complete this process, so I am optimistic about the council on Wednesday, he said.