Top Tory MPs warn hard Brexit could cost party the next election

Lynsey Barber
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Some Tory MPs have warned that the party must speak to the 48 per cent who voted to Remain (Source: Getty)

A group of senior Conservative MPs have warned that the party risks losing the next election if it goes for a hard Brexit, urging the Prime Minister Theresa May to publish the government's plans for negotiations.

The warning comes after the surprise result in the Richmond by-election where the Lib Dem's overturned a Tory majority "with a clear and unambiguous USP – that of rejecting the referendum as a final answer on the EU issue".

Read more: Richmond Park by-election result: Goldsmith ousted in shock Lib Dem victory

"The Conservative party needs to be aware that there is a moderate core of Conservative voters who voted Remain and who want to hear the government speaking above the noise of the Brexiters," said the MPs, writing in the Observer. They include the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, former foreign office minister Alistair Burt and ex-transport minister Claire Perry.

"They want the Conservative leadership to speak for them too, and Richmond may be a reminder that their votes have another destination if we don’t get this right. That moderate voice is crucial for the party to keep the votes of the middle ground who could lose the Conservative party the next election if they take their votes elsewhere," the group said.

Read more: Are uncompromising EU leaders pushing Britain to a hard Brexit?

"As well as making clear that it will not be pushed into a corner by those who only advocate a hard Brexit, a government decision to publish its objectives for negotiations would not only bring some certainty to the issue, but also be likely to suggest a tone which would be welcomed by a key group of supporters. The vast majority of Conservative voters would unite behind that and the prime minister, trusting her to deliver the best Brexit possible."

The Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney took 20,150 votes in the area, beating former Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, who stood as an independent candidate and won 18,638 votes. The Conservatives did not put forward its own candidate.

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