Brexit: Tory MPs threaten mass walk-out if No 10 forces party to back no-deal at general election
Damian Green tells prime minister the stance would be 'unacceptable' to dozens of members of the 'One Nation' group
One MP told The Independent the idea was “mad”, adding: “It would be impossible for me to recommend that as the best option for my constituents.”
After the meeting, Damian Green, the chairman of the One Nation group, said Mr Johnson had been told that such a stance would be “unacceptable”.
The former deputy prime minister insisted the group had been “reassured”, telling The Independent: “He told us that is not what he is about and that he would continue to try to get a deal.”
Mr Green declined to put a figure on the number of Conservative MPs who would agree to stand on a no-deal manifesto, but agreed it could be “several dozen”.
The former Remain supporter also declined to say whether he would be a Conservative candidate if the prime minister forced through a no-deal manifesto.
The fears were sparked by the Downing Street source saying, in a memo earlier this week: “If this deal dies in the next few days, then it won’t be revived.
“To marginalise the Brexit party, we will have to fight the election on the basis of ‘no more delays, get Brexit done immediately’.”
The aide, named by Amber Rudd as Mr Cummings, added: “We’ll either leave with no deal on 31 October or there will be an election and then we will leave with no-deal.”
Mr Green said: “We gave the prime minister the message that we would find making a no-deal Brexit the purpose of government policy, in our manifesto, unacceptable.
“He said he doesn’t want that to be our policy and, given he decides what it says in our manifesto, we were reassured.”
However, no final decision has been taken, even with the likelihood of a winter election – if, as seems likely, Brexit is delayed beyond 31 October – growing by the day.
Furthermore, sceptics will point to Mr Johnson previously telling the One Nation group he was “not attracted to arcane procedures such as the prorogation of parliament” – shortly before shutting it down, illegally, for five weeks.
Some Tories believe the only way to fight off Nigel Farage, if Mr Johnson has broken has “do or die” pledge to deliver a Halloween Brexit, will be to adopt his hardline stance.
Although the Conservatives have a poll lead of around seven points, this is expected to dip if an election is held while the UK is still in the EU.
Mr Farage has vowed to stand candidates in all 650 parliamentary constituencies, splitting the Leave vote, unless the Tories back a no-deal exit explicitly.