BRUSSELS - EU members are reported to have said the plan by rival factions from the ruling UK Tory party had "zero chance" of being passed by Brussels as prime minister Theresa May today faces a crucial day of votes in the parliament that could carve out the shape of Brexit, with less than 60 days before Britain is due to leave the EU.
On the eve of the vote, shock WhatsApp messages emerged to reveal rival factions from the Tory party had come together to devise a new plan in the event the UK leaves the bloc without a deal.
Former Brexit minster Steve Baker said the plan - called the The Malthouse Compromise after Kit Malthouse, the MP who brought the factions together - would lead to Britain leaving the EU "on time and with a functioning government”.
Drawn up by former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan and supported by others, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, the plan "provides for exit from the EU on time with a new backstop, which would be acceptable indefinitely, but which incentivises us all to reach a new future relationship".
It would extend the transition period - the period where the UK would continue to follow EU rules and pay into its budget - from the end of 2020 and into December 2021 which would "allow both parties to prepare properly for WTO terms, but also provide a period in which the parties could obviate this outcome by negotiating a mutually beneficial future relationship".
Ms Morgan this morning confirmed talks have been taking place for "some days" between MPs from the Remain and Leave wings of the Tory Party to find a compromise way forward.
The discussions also involved Health Minister Stephen Hammond and Solicitor General Robert Buckland from one wing of the party, and Mr Rees-Mogg and Mr Baker from the Leave camp.
She said their plan involved a "recasting" of the Northern Ireland backstop as "free trade agreement-lite" with a commitment on all sides there should be no hard border on the island of Ireland and an extended transition period to December 2021.
"She said a vote of the Brady amendment makes it clear that the current nature of the backstop is the key reason that the House cannot support the deal."
As he urged MPs to back the Government's deal, the Chancellor took exception to criticism from Labour's Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North), who said Government analysis shows "every region and every nation of the country will be poorer under any form of Brexit".
Speaking at Treasury questions, Mr Hammond replied: "Your statistics are wrong - it's not right to say that every region will be worse off.
"Every region under every scenario will be better off. The UK economy will continue growing.
"But there is no doubt, as the published cross-government analysis shows, that leaving with a deal will best protect the UK economy and will be in the interests of all our constituents.
"And I'd urge you to get behind the deal."
A Labour source said: "We're backing the Cooper amendment to reduce the threat of the chaos of a no-deal exit.
"The Cooper Bill could give MPs a temporary window to agree a deal that can bring the country together.
"We will aim to amend the Cooper Bill to shorten the possible Article 50 extension."
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Brussels was waiting to see what happened in Parliament.
He said: "This is not a Brussels day, this is a London day. We have the vote tonight and then we will take it from there.
"What we have on the table is the Withdrawal Agreement, we have a Political Declaration. The agreement has been adopted by the 27, accepted by the UK Government, we have the joint letter between (Donald) Tusk and (Jean-Claude) Juncker providing more in-depth background information.
"There is nothing new on the table so don't look to Brussels on this, look to London."
He said that European Commission president Mr Juncker was "permanently available and in permanent contact" if Theresa May wanted to get in touch.
France must be “pragmatic and flexible” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to the politician who controls the key channel ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne.
Xavier Bertrand, president of the northeastern Hauts-de-France region, warned Emmanuel Macron’s administration not to “let the legal aspect become the enemy of the economics”.
Mr Bertrand acknowledge his region would be one of the hardest hit by no-deal Brexit disruption. But he said: “It's a test of pragmatism. We need to maintain fluidity and jobs and we can write a new chapter in the relationship. (FA)