Theresa May is facing a bitter backlash from Tory MPs after calling for national unity and offering talks with Jeremy Corbyn to agree a Brexit plan.
She is likely to face an onslaught from Conservative Brexiteers at Prime Ministers Questions after her controversial proposal to negotiate with the Labour leader.
Ominously for the PM, Boris Johnson has joined the Brexiteer backlash, which has seen some Tory MPs urge cabinet ministers to stage a mutiny and move to oust her immediately.
With some Conservative MPs now fearing Brexit is in jeopardy, the former party leader Iain Duncan Smith told Sky News: “This is an utter disaster. We are just about to legitimise Corbyn. It’s appalling.”
Unveiling her new direction after a marathon seven-hour Cabinet meeting, the PM said: “This is a difficult time for everyone. Passions are running high on all sides of the argument.
“But we can and must find the compromises that will deliver what the British people voted for. This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands. And it requires national unity to deliver the national interest.”
The PM’s national unity move comes amid claims that at a seven-hour Cabinet meeting 14 ministers backed a no-deal Brexit, with 10 against, but she chose to talk to Mr Corbyn instead.
Responding to Mrs May’s statement, the Labour leader says he’s happy to meet the Prime Minister and is pleased she has indicated she will accept the will of parliament and is prepared to reach out.
“We hold in reserve our right to bring a motion of no confidence in the government if it proves it is incapable of commanding a majority in the Commons: time will tell on that,” he said.
“Our priority is to make sure we don’t crash out and is I believe to make sure we have a government that does command a majority in the House and does indeed command the majority support across the country. At the moment we don’t have that.”
Mr Corbyn says his demands in his talks with the PM will include:
:: A customs union with the EU and access to markets
:: Protecting consumer and environmental standards and workers’ rights
:: Guaranteeing the Good Friday Agreement
But pro-Remain Labour MPs – backed by deputy leader Tom Watson and Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer – are also demanding a referendum on the Brexit deal.
On the Tory back benches, the PM’s offer to Mr Corbyn has inflamed the party’s civil war.
Speaking after a meeting of the European Research Group (ERG) that MPs present told Sky News was “tempestuous”, leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “I think getting the support of a known Marxist is not likely to instil confidence in Conservatives.
“This approach to government is an unsuccessful one and it also lacks democratic legitimacy.
“People did not vote for a Corbyn-May coalition Government – they voted for a Conservative government, which became a Confidence and Supply with the DUP.
“This is a deeply unsatisfactory approach – it’s not in the interests of the country, it fails to deliver on the referendum result and history doesn’t bode well for it.”
Mr Johnson, who is campaigning for the Tory leadership, said: “It is very disappointing that the cabinet has decided to entrust the final handling of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.”
And Tory MP Henry Smith tweeted: “Theresa May represents a monumental failure of British leadership, a betrayal of the majority who voted to leave the EU and Conservative Party membership.
“I called for her to go last year, incredibly she has descended further still. I cannot countenance her Corbyn/Brexit process.”
Another senior ERG member Daniel Kawczynski told Sky News: “Somebody has to take the first step now and say ‘I voted against the withdrawal agreement on three occasions but now I’ll back the PM, because I can see us losing Brexit’.
“And if we were to lose Brexit the electorate would pass judgement on the Conservative Party.”
There was also a hostile reaction from the Democratic Unionist Party, whose MPs said in a statement: “The Prime Minister’s lamentable handling of the negotiations with the EU means she has failed to deliver a sensible Brexit deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom.
“That is why she has not been able to get it through parliament. Her announcement therefore tonight comes as little surprise.
“Though it remains to be seen if sub-contracting out the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn, someone whom the Conservatives have demonised for four years, will end happily.
“We want the result of the referendum respected, and just as we joined the Common Market as one country we must leave the EU as one country.
“We will continue to use our position within parliament and with the government to argue strongly the case for Northern Ireland and the integrity of the United Kingdom.
“We remain consistent in judging all Brexit outcomes against our clear unionist principles.”
But defending the Prime Minister on Sky News, Environment secretary Michael Gove insisted the Conservative Party was not going to split over her latest decision.
“I don’t think we’re splitting,” he said. “I think what we’re doing is ensuring everybody is focused on making sure we leave the EU at the earliest possible point.”
On the DUP saying it could not back the current deal, Mr Gove said: “We want the DUP to support our approach. I think it’s important we leave the EU as one UK.”
And on his own leadership ambitions, Mr Gove added: “I’m concentrating on making sure we leave the EU, that is front and centre of my mind and everything else is secondary.”