George Freeman, Theresa May’s former policy adviser, has said that he was looking forward to “a Valentines love-in” on Thursday, when the prime minister is set to return to update MPs on progress with the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
But he says he now thinks the “love-in” will likely be delayed as Mrs May is not expected to return to the Commons with an agreement that would be supported by MPs.
The MP for Norfolk told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham: “There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes and cross-party talks going on – not so much through the frontbenches but rather responsibly by statesman-like backbenchers from all parties.
“In some ways it is a bit like the last 10 minutes of the premiership game, where she has taken the ball to the corner and is waiting for the whistle.
“She is hoping that everyone is going to wake up and realise if they don’t vote for the deal, there will be a no-deal and she knows there is a majority in the House against it.”
He added: “I was looking forward to a Valentines love-in in Parliament where we all come together but that looks like that is going to be delayed.”
'A huge mistake'
Mr Freeman said it was not a good time for “a change of management” or a general election.
“This is also not the time for the team to take the ball to the corner and say that they want a change of management,” he said.
“It may well be that we are going to need a change of management and the board, but that comes after the match.
“At the moment everyone has just got to focus on trying to find a way to get a withdrawal agreement through the House.
“This is just the withdrawal agreement, this is not a future relationship. If I had to bet, I would bet that in the last minutes of this the prime minister will doggedly find a compromise – some wording on the backstop or legal conditions on the backstop – that will allow the DUP to support it and the vast majority of Conservatives and then with 20 or 30 Labour MPs from the north the Brexit withdrawal agreement will pass.”
He added: “I really hope that nobody in Conservative central office is thinking let’s have a snap election.
“We did that in 2017 and lost 30 MPs in England and blew the majority. It was only Ruth Davidson’s Scottish revival that has kept us in power.
“I think it would be a huge mistake. We have got to get on and get the withdrawal agreement through but also show that there is a generation of Conservatives that have got a vision for this country beyond Brexit.”