FURIOUS Tories turned on each other last night as tempers frayed over the Brexit deadlock.
Rival factions traded insults over who was to blame for failing to take Britain out of the EU on time.
Mark Francois has boasted: ‘I wouldn’t vote for the deal if they put a shotgun in my mouth’[/caption]
Many pointed the finger at 28 hardline members of the European Research Group who sided with Remainers to block Theresa May’s departure deal.
One senior Brexiteer said: “They have lost the plot. They are no longer behaving rationally.
Their passion for a perfect Brexit has now turned into a kamikaze mission and they are in danger of killing off the whole project — and the Conservative Party with it.”
But ERG zealots hit back at their accusers, branding them “traitors” and “cowards”. The blue-on-blue warfare erupted yesterday on what should have been Britain’s first day outside the EU.
The PM’s deal was sunk hours before the two-year deadline expired, triggering a wave of bitter recriminations.
Senior Brexiteers — including Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith and Dominic Raab — swung behind the deal as it dawned it was better than losing Brexit altogether.
I could tear this place down and bulldoze it into the river
Mark Francois MP on the Parliament
But the ERG diehards refused to budge and have now been accused of running a “renegade army”.
One member of the group who voted for the deal said last night: “There is a hardcore of members who have become increasingly emotional and macho about Brexit.
“They seem to have lost all sense of reason or tactical nous. Their language is now littered with angry phrases and their position seems to be irreconcilable.”
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker and ex-defence minister Mark Francois are “manning the barricades” as self-appointed leaders since Mr Rees-Mogg gave up his resistance to the deal. Mr Francois has boasted: “I wouldn’t vote for the deal if they put a shotgun in my mouth.” At a gathering in a Commons meeting room last week Mr Baker admitted he was “consumed with ferocious rage”.
His voice cracking with emotion, he branded those who supported the deal “fools, knaves and cowards”. And he declared: “I could tear this place down and bulldoze it into the river.”
Mrs May has ruled out the UK leaving without a deal — and the Remainer-dominated Commons has vowed to block it if she tried.
Her first bid to get a deal through Parliament was opposed by 110 ERG members. At the third attempt on Friday, it had dwindled to 28 — but it was still enough to stop Britain leaving.
While the majority now back the deal, the ERG resistance movement is holding firm. Diehards include Priti Patel, Owen Paterson, Sir Bernard Jenkin and Suella Braverman. Another ERG member, who is now backing the deal, said: “The group appears to be in the hands of a hardcore group of angry and reckless extremists. I decided to back the deal because it has become increasingly clear we may end up with a much less favourable Brexit, or no Brexit at all.
“It is clear the Prime Minister and the Commons will not allow us to leave the EU with no deal, which is what these insurgents are holding out for.
“They are saying some barmy things. All this talk of sticking guns in their mouths and bulldozing Parliament is really not helpful.”
WHY REES-MOGG NOW BACKS DEAL
ERG chairman Mr Rees-Mogg said last night: “The normal phlegmatic approach is the one I prefer to take.
“The overwhelming bulk of the ERG members have come to the conclusion that this deal was the least worst option.
“Some have decided that they need to carry on in the hope of getting no deal, which they did for honourable reasons, but ones with which I do not agree.”
But one Cabinet minister described the defiant ERG faction as “idiots”. He declared: “The ‘Spartans’ are irreconcilable. There is no team spirit. That’s over.”
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One Tory MP added: “Instead of advancing their cause, the likes of Mark Francois are helping the Remain campaign no end. It’s like they’re sleeper agents for staying in the EU. You couldn’t make it up.”
A senior ERG member, who is backing the deal now, said: “I too would prefer to leave the EU without a deal than support the Prime Minister’s deal. But the reality is that No-Deal is off the table now. The PM won’t wear it and neither will the Commons. They would prefer a much softer Brexit or no Brexit at all.
“What this dug-in faction of the ERG have yet to explain is how they get to No-Deal with a Parliament stuffed full of Remainers who don’t want to leave the EU.”
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