The MP also said she would be willing to resign from the Tories and join up with “like-minded people” equally opposed to this outcome if the government opted for a Brexit outcome that would “destroy the lives and livelihoods” of her constituents.
But Soubry insisted the government had not yet reached the point where this sort of hard Brexit was inevitable. And she urged Theresa May to avoid it by refusing to let “Brexit ideologues” dictate government policy.
Soubry, who has become the most vocal pro-European among Tory MPs, has never before been quite this explicit about how Brexit could lead to her quitting the party. However, in her article in the Mail on Sunday, she was careful to avoid saying what would constitute the “hard Brexit” that she says she cannot accept.
The term “soft Brexit” was used to describe Britain staying in the single market or the customs unions, options that the government has now very firmly rejected. The government wants the UK to instead have a free trade deal with the EU, an outcome that many would describe as a “hard Brexit”, although not the hardest Brexit of all, which would involve leaving with no deal at all.
In her article, Soubry urged May to side with “sensible, moderate wise owls in the cabinet”, like Philip Hammond, the chancellor, “who appreciate that we need a sensible Brexit transition period to avoid plunging this country headlong into an economic nightmare.”
Soubry went on: “But if the prime minister or her successor (in the event of Theresa standing down) is not prepared to confront the ideologues, I gravely fear that the party could split – and that would change Britain’s political landscape completely.
“Many remainers like me have been true to our promise to respect the result of last year’s referendum.
“However, we must face up to the Brexit reality: it is fantasy to think we are going to get a good deal from the EU based on our current negotiating strategy. People will soon see how they have been conned by the Brexiteers. All options must go back on the table.”
In the past Soubry has said a good Brexit deal would have to involve the UK remaining in the customs union. Her Mail on Sunday article coincided with Hammond and Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, publishing a joint statement ruling this out, even as part of a transitional deal.
In her article, Soubry said that, if she were to resign, it would be because she was putting country before party.
She said: “People have asked me two questions, if the worst happened and we staggered recklessly towards a ‘hard Brexit’ that would destroy the lives and livelihoods of my constituents: could I ever see myself joining with like-minded people who want to save our country from such an appalling fate? And has that moment arrived yet?
“The answer to the first question is ‘it is not impossible’; the answer to the second is ‘no’. But I would be betraying my principles if I did not make it clear that country must always come before party.”
Last week James Chapman, who served as a special adviser to George Osborne when he was chancellor and then to David Davis, the Brexit secretary, until the general election, claimed that at least two cabinet ministers agreed with him that there is now a vacancy in British politics for a pro-European party.
Chapman wants MPs opposed to Brexit to form a new party called the Democrats, but Soubry is about the only MP in parliament, from any party, who has publicly expressed any interest in the idea.
On Sunday, David Miliband, the Labour former foreign secretary, used an article in the Observer to urge politicians from all parties to work together to oppose a hard Brexit. Miliband also said either parliament or the public should be given the chance in a vote to choose between the final Brexit deal and staying in the EU.
This article was written by Andrew Sparrow Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Sunday 13th August 2017 13.40 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010