Tory MPs accused of ‘shameless coup’ over Brexit after writing leaked letter tightening the screws on Theresa May

Tory MPs’ hard Brexit letter to May described as ransom note

Group of 62 backbenchers’ list of demands for exit of EU triggers furious reaction from colleagues

More than 60 backbench Conservative MPs have sent Theresa May a list of hard Brexit demands ahead of a crunch meeting, triggering a furious reaction from colleagues who branded the letter a “ransom note”.

And they said Britain must be free to sign trade deals during a transition period after March 2019 – which would not be possible under current EU rules.

They wrote: “Your government must have the ability to change British laws and rules once we leave, rather than being a ‘rule taker’ without any substantive say in whatever Brussels decides.”

The letter, leaked to The Times, is a reminder to Theresa May that her right-wing backbenchers are unlikely to back down if she tries to opt for a ‘softer’ Brexit.

Signed by former Cabinet ministers Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith, it is a blow to Mrs May’s authority ahead of the next meeting of her Brexit ‘ war cabinet ‘ this Thursday.

Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said “militants” were “hijacking the Conservative Party”.

The backer of anti-Brexit campaign Best For Britain added: “The PM must listen to the people, not to the far-right faction who are launching this shameless coup.”

Labour MP Chris Lelie MP, of anti-Brexit campaign Open Britain, said: “The ERG have long felt they can dictate Government policy and they are brazenly advocating the hardest of hard Brexits.

“They continue to pretend we can have our cake and eat it, but they get away with it because of the Cabinet’s refusal to admit the truth that the Brexit we were promised can never be delivered.

“With Brextremists on the rampage, people have every right to keep an open mind about whether Brexit is the right choice for our country.”

Shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield said: “This letter exposes the deep divisions that run through the heart of this Tory Government.

“On the day David Davis promised the EU that the Government does not want a race to the bottom on standards, the extreme Brexiteers and the European Research Group are calling on Theresa May to do just that.

“It is clearer than ever that Theresa May cannot deliver the Brexit deal Britain needs. She is too weak to face down the fanatics in her own party and to deliver a final deal that protects jobs and the economy.”

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