Up to 40 Tory MPs could vote against Theresa May's Chequers plan, David Davis warns

'Every group in any political party has differences, egos and so on. But with Labour voting against, the critical size of the voting bloc is quite small, it's basically a dozen people,' former Brexit secretary says 

Richard Wheeler
Thursday 20 September 2018 23:02 BST
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Rees-Mogg and Davis deny plotting to overthrow Prime Minister

David Davis believes a “rock-solid core” of up to 40 Tory Brexiteer MPs could vote against Theresa May‘s Chequers plan.

The former Brexit secretary also warned the Prime Minister would be undertaking a “very high risk” move if she turned her preferred approach into a confidence vote.

However, he added that pro Leave Tory MPs are “reasonably terrified” of a Jeremy Corbyn general election victory, claiming Downing Street is “banking on” this fear.

Fresh candidates who have “been in the weeds” could also emerge in any contest to replace the prime minister, Mr Davis said.

The coming weeks in parliament are set to involve a series of key Brexit votes, with Ms May previously suggesting it is either her Chequers plan or no deal.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, Mr Davis said of the strength of the Tory rebels: “Every group in any political party has differences, egos and so on. But with Labour voting against, the critical size of the voting bloc is quite small, it’s basically a dozen people. The rock-solid core of the (European Research Group) is a multiple of that. I’m not even an ERG member. It’s probably 30, 40.”

Mr Davis said decisions on confidence votes are based on the prime minister’s standing at that point in time.

On whether Tory Brexiteers from the ERG group would join Labour in voting no confidence in Ms May, he replied: “You’ll have to ask them. You’ve got some people who have been fighting this battle for 35 years. At the end of the day we are all tribal and people are reasonably terrified of a possible Corbyn victory. That’s what they (No10) are banking on. We will see who blinks.”

Asked about the next Tory leader, Mr Davis said generally the leader who emerges had not been in the running in the previous six to 12 months.

He went on: “They have been not there, they’ve been in the weeds. And there are reasons for that. The tactical reason is they don’t attract enemies because they don’t have a record to attack, real or imagined. The second reason is people are chosen for the day – and the issue of the day.”

Pressed on the prospects of Tory former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned after over the Chequers plan, the MP for Haltemprice and Howden said: “This is quite a young House. So a lot of people whose views are not widely known, you might get a new generation demand, you might not. You tend to get a swing away from the previous.”

Mr Davis acknowledged his role in recommending a snap general election last year, although added: “I didn’t recommend a crap campaign.”

He also reiterated his dislike for Treasury forecasts on Brexit, noting: “There were 17.5 million experts who voted to Leave.

“They weren’t experts in economics, they didn’t propose to be able to write 15-year economic forecasts that everybody thinks are bollocks. They know what exactly has happened to their job in the last 10 years and they’ve got a good idea what’s going to happen.”

Press Association

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