The Conservative Party risks being captured by the “narrow nationalism, phobia-filled and poisonous politics of Nigel Farage”, Lord Heseltine has warned.
In a speech to mark his appointment as the president of the pro-EU pressure group European Movement, the former deputy Prime Minister will call on Tory leadership candidates to reject no deal as an option.
He will say: “Such a decision, which would deny either Parliament or the people a say on a No Deal outcome that neither wants, would be nothing short of a democratic and constitutional outrage.”
“If successful, the consequences for businesses, for young people and for the integrity of the United Kingdom itself would rightly be hung around the neck of the Conservative Party for a generation to come.”
Lord Heseltine admitted he voted Liberal Democrat at the recent European Parliament elections and had the Tory whip removed beforehand after he stated his intention to do so.
The peer will say: “What is it you want me to do? To betray everything I’ve believed all my adult life? To explain why every Conservative PM except the last one was wrong?”
“Am I to tell the young generation ‘go hang’ or is it that I should stay silent?”
“To wait for Conservative Central Office to send me a little blue book, thumb through the index under Europe and read out the party line?”
“I can think of a party that does believe that. And it does begin with a C. But it is not the Conservative party I know and to which I have devoted my life.”
He will add: “Turn yourselves into branch offices of Brexit if you wish. But if you do so, you are on your own. Those upon whom you depend to win power in a general election will not come back. Good luck. Goodbye.”
“Indeed, the prospect of a new Prime Minister being chosen by perhaps little more than 100,000 Conservative Party members in the current circumstances fills me with dread. There will be an arms race in which candidates vie against each other for who can be the most Faragiste.”
Lord Heseltine will say it is not too late for the Conservative Party to change direction on Brexit and to back a second referendum.
He will add: “If we’ve learnt anything over the past year it must be that we now know that we cannot enjoy all the rights of being a member of the EU with none on the responsibilities that necessarily go with it.”
“The heady, if intellectually incoherent, claim that we can have our cake and eat it has ended up choking the mother of Parliament itself.”
“Today, I want to appeal to every sensible Conservative MP, to potential leadership candidates, even to the Labour leader, not to force Brexit upon us now.”
“I ask them to stand up, to speak out for our democratic right to have our say on Brexit.”
“Whether you want to leave the EU or to stay in, the only way to unlock the Brexit process in Parliament, the only way to secure a stable majority in Parliament, the only way to legitimise the outcome so we can build a lasting settlement in the country is to give the people the final say.”