The former Brexit secretary David Davis has urged Theresa May to further delay the “meaningful vote” on her proposed Brexit deal in order to increase pressure on the EU and MPs.
The vote was originally due in December, but was delayed when it became clear the prime minister’s proposals would be rejected. It is now due in the week beginning 14 January.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Davis said it could be put back again if the parliamentary numbers remain against the PM.
He also suggested the EU would offer a better agreement than the one currently on the table if the UK looked like crashing out without a deal – because it would be worried about missing out on the £39bn divorce payment that has been negotiated.
The Financial Times has reported that Mrs May will talk to other EU leaders this week, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and European Council President Donald Tusk, to see if there has been any shift in their position.
In his Daily Telegraph column Mr Davis said: “The Withdrawal Agreement does not respect the referendum result.
“That is why the meaningful vote had to be delayed and one wonders if even the January vote will go ahead.
“Attempts to frighten MPs into supporting it are unlikely to work, because voting down this substandard deal will not result in no Brexit.”
He added: “We know that the EU is worried about the loss of the £39bn ‘divorce’ payment if there is no deal… so this is the moment to be hard-nosed about these issues.
“The more we prepare to leave the EU without a deal, the more likely a good deal becomes.”
His comments come as the current Brexit secretary Steven Barclay is expected to meet ministers to discuss preparations for a “no-deal” Brexit.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that, however thorough the preparations, a no-deal exit from the EU would lead to economic disruption.
He also ruled out a second referendum, saying cancelling Brexit would lead to “devastating” social consequences.
And he predicted that the lack of a credible alternative and the rapidly diminishing window before 29 March, when the UK is due to leave the EU, would concentrate the minds of MPs and result in Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement being approved by parliament.