A general election next year could be the only way Theresa May could get a “soft Brexit” deal past her Eurosceptic backbenchers, Paddy Ashdown has been claimed.
Speaking at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, the former party leader said the most likely Brexit deal would be “Norway with bells and whistles on” and that it would provoke the Conservative hard Brexiteers such as Peter Bone and Bernard Jenkin into revolt.
“The probability curve rises now quite sharply towards a May election,” Lord Ashdown said.
“Sooner or later she has to declare her hand about what does Brexit actually mean. Either way she has a revolt on her hands," Lord Ashdown added.
“There are deeper divisions in the Tory party than we are paying attention to. The only way out of that conundrum is a general election.”
The election would act as a de facto referendum on the deal, and in all likelihood, be disastrous for the Labour Party too, he added.
“So it becomes, in a political outcome, a second referendum. And then she's able to go into the detailed negotiations ... with a bargaining position and the voice of the British people behind her.
“And she has smashed Labour when they are weak without being opportunistic, and she has put her right wing to bed,” Lord Ashdown said.