The Tory peer said the possibility of a hard Brexit being implemented had “already gone” after the Prime Minister’s election gamble backfired and saw her forced to rely on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Lord Heseltine, a staunch Remain supporter, told BBC Newsnight it is now “very much open to question” whether Brexit will happen at all.
“The idea of a hard Brexit is not credible”, he said. “I don’t think there’s the majority for it in Parliament. We have a split cabinet, we have a split country and at the first meeting [of Brexit negotiations with the EU] we lost the argument on the issue of the bill we are going to have to pay.”
Brexit is “dead…in the hard sense that we’re going to leave the whole thing and be our own independent, sovereign nation”, the Tory peer added. “That is simply not the way the world is working today.”
Asked whether he thought Brexit would happen at all, he replied: “I’m not sure. I think that is very much open to question.”
The peer said it is “not conceivable” that Ms May will lead her party into another election and suggested the Prime Minister’s priority should be ensuring “the best possible successor for the Conservative Party”.
His comments came as Ms May prepares for the Queen’s Speech, which Tory sources have told The Independent is likely to be her first and last as Prime Minister.
Many of the Conservatives’ manifesto pledges are likely to be ditched or watered down because the Government does not have the numbers to get them through Parliament. Plans to axe universal free school meals, scrap the triple lock on pensions and lift the ban on new grammar schools all likely to be ditched.
Instead, the speech is likely to focus on Brexit, with the Prime Minister under mounting pressure to abandon her plans for a hard Brexit that could result in Britain leaving the EU without a trade deal.
The address will be given while negotiations between the Tories and the DUP are still ongoing. Conservative sources have suggested an agreement is likely to be reached before MPs vote on the provisions of the speech next week.
Lord Heseltine claimed it “wasn’t relevant” whether Ms May is able to strike a deal with the DUP because she will not be Prime Minister for long. Claiming there was nothing she could do to recover her authority, he added: “I think it will need a new leader to do that”.
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