The Prime Minister is under pressure from Tory MPs not to breach her Brexit “red lines” as she battles to find a solution to the Irish border question.
Theresa May was forced to deal with a series of interventions by her own backbenchers during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
In an apparently coordinated effort, prominent Leave-supporting MPs warned the Government against closely aligning the UK with Brussels after Brexit.
Jacob Rees-Mogg urged Mrs May to “apply a new coat of paint to her red lines” amid his “fear” they had begun “to look a little bit pink” this week.
His demand came after the Prime Minister’s hopes of achieving a draft agreement on the first phase of Brexit negotiations were sunk by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), mid-way through her trip to Brussels on Monday.
The Northern Ireland party, who prop up Mrs May’s Government at Westminster, failed to give their consent to a draft text on the Irish border.
They fear being left aligned to EU regulation while the rest of the UK diverges from Brussels rules after 2019, effectively separating Northern Ireland from Scotland, England and Wales.
The Government have since tried to reassure the DUP any post-Brexit alignment with EU rules would be conducted on a UK-wide basis, which has raised fears among those Tory MPs wanting a clean break from the bloc.
In response to Mr Rees-Mogg, the Prime Minister insisted “the principles on which the Government are negotiating were set out in the Lancaster House speech and in the Florence speech, and those principles remain”.
Mrs May was also forced to declare the Government is “on course to deliver what the people of this country voted for when they voted to leave the EU” when quizzed by Mr Rees-Mogg’s fellow Brexiteer Peter Bone.
Offering to help “sort” the Brexit negotiations by travelling to Brussels with the Prime Minister, Mr Bone asked: “When the British people voted to leave the European super-state, they voted to end the free movement of people, to stop sending billions and billions of pounds to the EU each and every year, and to make our laws in our own country, judged by our own judges.
“Are we still on course to deliver that?”
Bernard Jenkin was a third Tory Brexiteer to tackle Mrs May during the session, as he urged the Prime Minister not to leave Britain “shackled” to Brussels after Brexit, in order for the UK to have the ability to sign free trade deals with non-EU countries.
Mrs May replied: “We want to ensure that we get a good trade deal with the EU and the freedom to negotiate these trade deals around the rest of the world.”
Later on Wednesday, Chancellor Philip Hammond admitted the Cabinet has not yet decided what post-Brexit relationship it will seek with the EU in the second phase of divorce talks with Brussels, when both sides will discuss a future trade relationship.
It has been suggested Remain supporters such as Mr Hammond favour closer ties with the EU, in contrast to his Cabinet colleagues and Vote Leave figureheads Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.