Secret cross-party talks have started between rebel Conservatives and senior opposition MPs aimed at bouncing the UK Government into key Brexit concessions, The Courier can reveal.
Sources say that prominent Tory backbenchers such as Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen are open to forcing through concessions, in particular guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals and ensuring farmers maintain their subsidy levels.
It came as Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the party now had to “reach out to others” on issues such as Brexit.
One MP familiar with the talks said: “It could be simple, one-line bills we bring forward like: ‘The rights of EU nationals living in the UK on or before June 23 would be maintained’
“On issues like farming, it is likely we could even peel off the DUP. There is only a majority of 13 with the DUP so it just needs seven defections.
“It’s likely the government would just make an announcement and then support us but that’s alright. It’s about getting the result, not embarrassment.”
It is understood that Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, and Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s Europe spokesman, have discussed the issue.
The news emerged as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a so-called hard Brexit was “no longer viable” and urged ministers to change their approach.
Meanwhile, the SNP will decide on its Westminster leader on Wednesday, as a proposal from experienced MPs Stewart Hosie, currently acting leader following Angus Robertson’s election defeat, and Pete Wishart, the acting chief whip after Mike Weir lost in Angus, to draw out the process over several weeks was defeated in an informal group meeting with Ms Sturgeon present.
Mr Wishart earlier told The Courier he was “seriously considering” running to replace Angus Robertson.
He added that whoever takes over the role should have experience in the Commons.
Mr Hosie has ruled himself out and the only other MP not to be part of the 2015 intake is the colourful Angus MacNeil.
Ian Blackford is still seen as the front runner although he remained tight-lipped about his prospects yesterday.
Joanna Cherry is said to have put her name in the frame but her brash approach is seen as a divisive within certain sections of the party.
Tommy Sheppard, the left-wing Edinurgh East MP, announced he would be standing for the role.
Pleased to say I have decided to seek nomination for @theSNP Westminster group leader.
— Tommy Sheppard MP (@TommySheppard) June 12, 2017
North East Fife MP Mr Gethins is extremely unlikely to put himself forward for family reasons. He became a father for the second time during the election campaign.
Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman put her name forward to replace Dundee East MP Mr Hosie as group deputy leader.
Highly rated Hannah Bardell was also being talked about but made no formal statement at the meeting.
A party spokesman said: “Nominations will open to MPs on Tuesday morning, with the election of the new group leader to be announced on Wednesday evening.”