Pro-remain Tory MPs said last night the party was being taken over by former Ukip members amid fresh infighting over Brexit.
Former ministers Nick Boles and Anna Soubry said a ‘purple Momentum’ was gaining control of some local Conservative associations and leaving their sitting MPs facing the threat of deselection.
It came as Theresa May was warned that a dozen ministers will resign by the end of the month unless she agrees to postpone Brexit to prevent a No Deal scenario.
Miss Soubry yesterday said the Conservative Party was ‘broken’ as the Prime Minister struggles to reconcile the warring factions.
The former business minister, who has been campaigning for a second referendum, said even MPs loyal to Mrs May were facing the prospect of being unseated because of the arrival of hundreds of ex-Ukip supporters in their constituency associations.
Former ministers Nick Boles (right) and Anna Soubry (left) said a ‘purple Momentum’ was gaining control of some local Conservative associations and leaving their sitting MPs facing the threat of deselection
‘They are now in control of the associations. We have got a “purple Momentum”, I’m not exaggerating,’ she told this medium.
‘I spoke to a colleague of mine and he was telling me that he is now being threatened with deselection because he voted for the Prime Minister’s deal.
‘In his association they have had 80 new members in about 80 days and they are all ex-Ukip members, they are not Conservatives.
‘Instead of standing up to this, like Labour should have stood up to Momentum, we are falling into the same trap. Both main parties are broken.’
Miss Soubry was backed up by Mr Boles, who said Mrs May was allowing zealots to run the party.
It came as Theresa May was warned that a dozen ministers will resign by the end of the month unless she agrees to postpone Brexit to prevent a No Deal scenario
The fellow former business minister has been facing a deselection attempt in his Grantham and Stamford constituency since he threatened to resign the party whip if the Prime Minister pursues a No Deal Brexit.
Mr Boles said a ‘systematic operation of infiltration’ by Ukip was taking place.
He said the party membership in his seat had increased from 400 to 500 in the past year.
Other pro-Remain Tory MPs, including Miss Soubry, Dominic Grieve, Antoinette Sandbach Mark Pawsey and George Freeman, were also being targeted, he claimed.
Mr Boles told The Times: ‘You have already seen one great party taken over by a sect and destroyed. I worry that the Conservative Party is on the brink. It is happening in the constituencies and it is also happening in the parliamentary party.
‘The one advantage Labour has is that their parliamentary party is quite sane, though the front bench is controlled by the zealots. In our case we have somewhere between 30 and 80 zealots. They are more ideologically fixed than the Maastricht rebels were and are greater in number.’
Other pro-Remain Tory MPs, including Miss Soubry, Dominic Grieve, Antoinette Sandbach Mark Pawsey and George Freeman, were also being targeted, he claimed
He added: ‘A bit of pepper in the soup is never a bad thing, but I’m not happy for my party to be run by zealots and at the moment Theresa is basically allowing them to run the party.’
The Tory divisions over Brexit yesterday widened in the wake of Mrs May’s Commons defeat on Valentine’s Day.
Mr Grieve said the next round of Brexit votes on February 27 would be a ‘high noon’ moment when mass resignations might bring Mrs May’s Government down.
He told this medium that he understood a number of ministers had already told Mrs May that if she was unable to secure a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement which could command the support of the Commons, she should extend the date when Britain leaves the EU beyond the planned March 29.
He said ‘a dozen or even more’ ministers may resign if she refuses, including ‘up to half a dozen’ from the Cabinet.
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of Tory MPs, dismissed the row over Thursday’s vote as a ‘storm in a teacup’.
Brexit-backing MPs who abstained were not prepared to be associated with the ‘catastrophic and foolish negotiating error’ of taking a No Deal Brexit off the table, he said.
It came as a senior EU source said Ireland was under growing pressure from Brussels to soften its Brexit stance.
The source said Dublin faces a choice between erecting a hard border with Northern Ireland or leaving the single market if Britain leaves without a deal.
A physical border would be required to protect the single market’s integrity or all goods travelling from Ireland to the rest of the EU would need to be checked as if it were a non-member, the official added.
A senior EU diplomat said yesterday: ‘Soon enough, Ireland will have to face up to the fact that either there is a border on the island or a border between Ireland and the rest of the EU.’