A leading Tory Europhile has urged his colleagues to give up on staying in the EU.

Former Cabinet minister Ken Clarke said it is ‘hopeless’ to expect the UK to remain in the bloc.

The comments came on the eve of key votes in parliament over the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Former PM Tony Blair is also spearheading a fresh bid by Remainers to prevent Brexit – calling for curbs to immigration within the bloc.

Former Cabinet minister Ken Clarke told Sky News it is ‘hopeless’ to expect the UK to remain in the bloc

Mr Blair told the BBC that the British public should be given options for how the shape of our future relationship with the EU will look

Mr Davis (left) has been embroiled in fraught Brexit negotiations with the EU’s Michel Barnier

But Mr Clarke told Sky News’s Sunday with Niall Paterson: ‘Tony (Blair) still thinks we can stay in the EU.

‘I think the mood in the country is it’s hopeless to expect that. What we now need to address is the practical consequences of what is our new relationship.’

But Mr Clarke insisted it was crucial for the country to get the best possible access to the EU market.

He said it was impossible to see a full agreement being struck by 2019, and a transition period of ‘two, three, four years’ will be needed.

The remarks by arch-Europhile Mr Clarke will be welcomed by ministers who fear a rebellion over the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Brexit Secretary David Davis slammed ‘vacuous’ criticism of the legislation today warning that blocking it would cause ‘chaos’.

Mr Davis said Labour’s plan to oppose the EU Withdrawal Bill tomorrow amounted to an ‘attempt to thwart the democratic process’.

He denied the measures were a ‘power grab’ – insisting they were necessary to ensure minimum disruption as we cut ties with Brussels.

The government is facing a major battle to push through the legislation – which effectively copies EU law on to the domestic statute books.

The most controversial aspect is the so-called ‘Henry VIII’ powers for ministers to amend laws as they are transposed.

The Withdrawal Bill is expected to make it through the second reading stage late tomorrow night, as Tory MPs are not in a mood to rebel despite Jeremy Corbyn whipping his MPs to vote against.

Up to a dozen Labour backbenchers could also defy their leader to support the principle of Brexit,

Jeremy Corbyn is whipping his MPs to vote against the Bill at second reading, despite saying he supports Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn is whipping his MPs to vote against the Bill at second reading, despite saying he supports Brexit

Tony Blair, who oversaw a surge in arrivals from newer states in the bloc, has conceded that ‘sentiment’ has changed about open borders. The ex-PM is pictured on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show today

But there is huge scope for revolt later in the process, with warnings that hundreds of amendments could be tabled by Remainers in a bid to soften the approach to Brexit.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Davis insisted negotiations with Brussels were ‘delivering steady progress’ on issues like citizens’ rights and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

He said it is ‘not a moment to go backwards’, dismissing criticism of the Government’s flagship bill as ‘vacuous’.

‘Any broad attempt to block the Bill, without any sense of a viable alternative, is simply an attempt to thwart the democratic process,’ Mr Davis wrote.

‘So, as my colleagues in the House of Commons proceed through the voting lobbies tomorrow, they must remember what they are voting for.

‘They are not voting on whether or not we leave the EU. That decision was made by the British people last June.

‘Nor are they voting for the terms of our exit. Those will be agreed as we proceed through our negotiations with the EU.

‘What they are voting on is how we leave: whether our withdrawal is smooth and orderly, or chaotic and uncertain.’

The rallying call came after Labour denounced the Great Repeal Bill as an undemocratic ‘power grab’ by ministers.

Accusing opposition MPs of only contributing ‘moan, complaint and gripe’ to the Brexit debate, Mr Davis insisted that laws contained within the mammoth bill would not allow the Government to bypass Parliament.

Meanwhile, Eurocrats have been accused of ‘drip-feeding poison’ to business chiefs, civil servants and friendly journalists in a bid to undermine the UK position.

Sources told the Sun on Sunday that allies of European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s allies have formed a ‘black ops’ unit to attack Mr Davis.

One insider said: ‘It’s clear their strategy is to weaken the UK’s position by making us look incompetent, weak or out of our depth.

‘Hardly a single meeting has taken place without a damaging story about the British delegation appearing.

‘More often than not it’s an over-spun account of a private discussion. Sometimes they are just smears.’

Leave a Reply