A snap general election could be on the cards if Theresa May calculates it is the only way to get a Brexit deal past her right-wing backbenchers, Lord Paddy Ashdown has predicted.
The former Lib Dem leader said he believed Mrs May would decide on remaining in the single market in a “Norway with bells and whistles on” compromise that would provoke Brexiteers 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.
“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,” Lord Ashdown said.
The Lib Dem peer said such an election would act as another referendum on the European Union.
“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.