Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg faced a backlash from fellow Conservative MPs after suggesting Theresa May could split her party and collapse the government unless she delivers the right Brexit deal.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Rees-Mogg, tipped as a potential Tory leader, warned the Prime Minister that backsliding on her promise to leave the single market and customs union would divide Conservatives like Sir Robert Peel, who plunged the party into the political wilderness for nearly three decades over the Corn Laws.
He faced a deluge of negative reactions from Conservative MPs who told him to “shut up” and warned that there was no majority in parliament or among the public for a no-deal Brexit, which some claim Mr Rees-Mogg wants.
The latest divisions on the Tory benches come ahead of a crunch meeting of the Cabinet at Chequers on Friday to thrash out the government's plans for the future relationship with Brussels.
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Reports suggest ministers have been briefed by Mrs May’s chief Europe adviser, Olly Robbins, that the EU will not offer a ‘bespoke’ Brexit deal, and that the only realistic options are the Norway model - staying in the single market with little influence over EU rules - or a Canadian-style free-trade deal imposing new barriers that businesses say would be unacceptable.
A source was quoted in the Times saying ministers came out of the meeting with Mr Robbins thinking "we were even more screwed than we were before".
Downing Street would not be drawn on separate reports that the cabinet will be presented with a new option for post Brexit customs in a bid to break the deadlock over the Irish border and trade with the EU.
Responding to Mr Rees-Mogg's comments, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: "Our focus is on delivering the will of the British people.”
In his Telegraph article, Mr Rees-Mogg wrote: "Theresa May must stand firm for what she herself has promised.
"One former Tory leader, Sir Robert Peel, decided to break his manifesto pledge and passed legislation with the majority of his party voting the other way.
"This left the Conservatives out of office for 28 years.
"At least he did so for a policy that works. At Chequers [Mrs May] must stick to her righteous cause and deliver what she has said she would, she must use her undoubted grace to persevere."
The intervention from the head of the European Research Group of pro-Brexit backbench Tories drew a furious backlash.
Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan accused him of "insolence", claiming his comments risked "debasing" the Government, Tory Party and the country as a whole.
"The ideological right are a minority despite their noise and should pipe down," he added.
Posting on Twitter, Conservative MP for Newbury Richard Benyon used the emoji for "silence" as he tweeted: "I think we would all benefit from a period of [silence] from the ultras on both ends..."
Veteran Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames also took to Twitter, posting: "A message for my old friend @Jacob_Rees_Mogg shut up”.
Business minister Richard Harrington said: "I do wish people would stop putting their own dogma above the good of the country and the Party. We should all support the Prime Minister and the businesses that employ so many people in good jobs and export so much."
North Dorset MP Simon Hoare said "the hectoring nonsense" and "blackmail" had to stop.
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The Conservatives had to wake up to the reality of the parliamentary arithmetic and the potential "calamity" of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government, he added.
Tory MP Vicky Ford - a former MEP and supporter of close ties to Europe - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What I would say to Jacob ... is if this becomes a binary choice between staying in the single market and customs union or no deal, then I do not believe there is a majority for no deal."
But former Conservative leader and Brexiteer Lord Howard told Today: "The Prime Minister has made a series of promises, the Prime Minister has repeatedly said that we must regain control of our laws, our money and our borders.
"I have great confidence in the Prime Minister. I am sure that she will deliver a Brexit that is entirely consistent with the promises she has made."