The European Union agreed to a Brexit delay of up to three months yesterday, just before MPs voted down Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s third attempt to hold a general election on December 12. Now EU letters have been sent a letter signed by “whipless” Conservatives including Mr Grieve, Lord Heseltine and Guto Bebb, according to Huffington Post’s Paul Waugh. Former Tory ministers Lord Deben, Viscount Hailsham, Lord Willetts and former Number 10 aide Lord Cooper of Windrush are also said to be on the list.
The letter said: “We are determined to work across the political spectrum, with all willing political parties and individuals, to secure such a confirmatory vote.
“However, an extension to January 31st does not allow sufficient time for this to be organised under the UK rules.
“We, therefore, urgently request the EU and Governments throughout Europe to allow UK citizens, who still remain EU citizens, the right to confirm their views on our future relationship with the EU.
“In order to do this, we would need six to eight months to secure and hold a confirmatory vote.”
Mr Johnson failed on Monday to get the two-thirds majority needed to secure an election under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (FTPA).
The Government fell 135 votes short of the 434 required to get an election under the FTPA on Monday.
After the vote, he said he would try again, by a legislative route that would only require a simple majority.
He told Parliament: “We will not allow this paralysis to continue and, one way or another, we must proceed straight to an election.
Former Attorney General Mr Grieve called Mr Johnson’s attempts to get an early election “blackmail” last week.
He said on Newsnight: “It’s a form of blackmail, a sort of Morton’s fork.
“You have got to sign up to an early election and in the meantime in return I will allow you to consider a piece of legislation for a short period, that actually we all agree requires rather longer.
“It is a major piece of legislation.”
Jeremy Corbyn said Labour, who abstained on the FTPA motion yesterday, would want to scrutinise whatever the Government put forward.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said Labour is unlikely to change its position to back the Government on an election.
He told Sky News: “I think it’s very unwise to be having a general election in the run-up to Christmas.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford added they would need a “cast-iron guarantee” that Mr Johnson would not try to bring back his deal to Parliament.
But Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg attempted to win them over by confirming that Mr Johnson’s new Bill would mean his Brexit deal would not be brought back before MPs.
Commons Speaker John Bercow said opposition MPs would have the ability to table amendments to the Bill on Tuesday.