Boris Johnson’s attempts to secure a deal with Brussels have won the backing of former prime minister David Cameron.
The ex-premier said he “completely supports” the incumbent’s efforts to get a deal in Europe and take it through the Commons, adding: “That’s the best thing that could possibly happen.”
Mr Cameron, who was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, said he thought there was a “good chance” of Mr Johnson’s efforts succeeding.
He added: “It is difficult but I think it is far better than a no-deal outcome, which I don’t think is a good outcome and not something I would recommend.”
It is difficult but I think it is far better than a no-deal outcome, which I don’t think is a good outcome and not something I would recommend
He suggested British politics would be “stuck” until Brexit is resolved, telling the festival: “If I can be perfectly frank about this and we can’t get a deal and we can’t all be stuck and I recognise my fair share of the responsibility for that fact we are stuck.
“We had a referendum and I lost that referendum and we found it very difficult to charge a way forward. We’ve had three years where we have not been able to resolve it and if you can’t resolve it with a deal, which is the right answer, there are only really three answers.
“You can have a deal; you can have a general election and try and change the arithmetic in the House of Commons; or you can have a second referendum and take it back to the people.”
Mr Cameron’s support came after Brussels dealt a heavy blow to the PM’s new Brexit proposals, and anticipated weekend talks between the two sides were called off.
The European Commission said EU member states had agreed the proposals “do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement”.
A spokesman said discussions between the two sides would not take place this weekend and instead the UK would be given “another opportunity to present its proposals in detail” on Monday.
“Michel Barnier debriefed COREPER (The Permanent Representatives Committee) yesterday, where member states agreed that the UK proposals do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement,” the spokesman added.
Dutch PM Mark Rutte said he had spoken to Mr Johnson on Saturday, but that “important questions remain about the British proposals”.
“There is a lot of work to be done ahead of #EUCO on October 17/18,” he tweeted.
Just spoke to @BorisJohnson on the phone. Important questions remain about the British proposals. There is a lot of work to be done ahead of #EUCO on October 17/18.
— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) October 5, 2019
However, Mr Johnson’s plans were well-received by the likes of Margot James – who was one of the 21 Tory rebels expelled from the party last month – and Paul Scully of the European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptics.
Ms James told BBC Radio 4’s The Week In Westminster she thought she and the other sacked rebels would be able to support the PM’s proposals.
She said: “If the Prime Minister can get EU and Irish agreement then I think that we would – we’ve all got reservations – but we would be prepared to compromise and vote for the deal. Our prime concern really is to avoid Britain leaving without a deal.”
Mr Scully said there was a “lot of sympathy” among members of the ERG to get the deal through the Commons, adding: “It does most of the things that Leavers asked of our Government to sort out.”
New deal or no deal – but no delay. #GetBrexitDone #LeaveOct31 🇬🇧
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 4, 2019
But Labour’s Lisa Nandy told the programme: “The truth is we’re further away from a deal than we were two months ago and I can’t see this getting anywhere.”
It comes after Mr Johnson insisted on Friday that he would not delay Brexit despite his lawyers saying he will comply with a law calling for the October 31 exit date to be postponed if there is no deal.
The Prime Minister accepted he must send a letter requesting a delay to Brexit beyond the Halloween deadline if no deal is agreed with Parliament by October 19, Scotland’s highest civil court heard.
But the PM later said the options facing the country were his proposed new Brexit deal or leaving without an agreement, “but no delay”.
The Prime Minister has previously said “we will obey the law” but will also leave on October 31 in any circumstance, without specifying how he would achieve the apparently contradictory goals – fuelling speculation that he had identified a loophole to get around the Benn Act.