Brexiteer opposition to Theresa May’s EU deal is softening today as leading Tory MP Esther McVey admitted she and other rebels could now 'hold their noses' and back it.
The Cheshire MP, who resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary over the deal four months ago, said Leaver MPs will 'have to think a different way' when the Prime Minister's EU divorce returns to the Commons for a third time next week.
Mrs May's deal lost by 149 votes last time and 75 rebels from her own party, including Ms McVey, voted against her.
But now the Tory Brexiteer, who is a member of the hardline ERG group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, has hinted she and other Conservatives have changed their minds.
Speaking to the BBC she said: 'The [situation] now is people will have to take a bad deal rather than no deal. People are going to have to think a different way next week'.
When asked if if 'MPs like her would hold their noses and vote' she replied: 'Yes. They will. I don't know what the number is, but they will have to do that if they want Brexit'.
Esther McVey quit over Theresa May's deal but has admitted she and other Brexiteers could change their minds this time
Theresa May appears certain to have a third attempt to get her Brexit deal agreed by MPs early next week but whatever happens will ask the EU for more time at a summit next Thursday
Powerbrokers DUP leader Arlene Foster and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke at a Washington DC gala dinner last night with Ms Foster hinting she could back Mrs May's deal
The Prime Minister's most senior lawyer is said to be 'updating' his view to include his view that the UK could withdraw unilaterally from the Irish backstop if it is seen to undermine the Good Friday Agreement.
The Attorney General's advice hinges on using Article 62 of the Vienna Convention to get out of the backstop without agreement from the EU.
'The legal risk remains unchanged': What Cox's new advice said and what it meant for May
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox published new legal advice on the Brexit deal on Tuesday morning, which proved to be the final nail in the coffin of Thersa May's deal, which was buried under a landslide defeat of 149 votes hours later.
These are the key paragraphs and what they mean:
Paragraph 19: The final paragraph and ultimately the only one likely to matter today. Cox admits the 'legal risk remains unchanged' that if UK-EU trade talks fail despite real efforts on both sides, Britain cannot escape the backstop unilaterally.
Paragraph 7: The Government hangs great hope on Cox's conclusion a new 'joint instrument' does impose 'new legal obligations and commitments' on finding an alternative to the backstop before it ever kicks in.
Paragraph 14: Cox says Britain's 'unilateral declaration' the backstop will not be allowed to become permanent does provide a 'substantive and binding reinforcement' of Britain's legal rights to escape the backstop if the EU acts in bad faith.
Paragraph 17: Cox says the new documents do 'reduce the risk' the UK could be trapped 'indefinitely and involuntarily' trapped in the backstop by the EU acting badly.
The Tory Brexiteer star chamber set up by the ERG - which also contains DUP barrister Nigel Dodds - have blasted the path as a 'complete non-starter' and told him to tear up his 'erroneous' new advice and come back with something else by the end of Sunday.
But in a boost for the PM, Lord Pannick QC, one of Britain's most senior lawyers, said his opinion is that 'as a matter of law' the UK would not be trapped permanently in the backstop whatever the Attorney General has said.
He wrote in a letter to The Times: 'If the UK and the EU were unable to reach an agreement on Northern Ireland/Ireland, despite good faith negotiations and despite the arbitration procedures, and if the UK were therefore to be faced against its will with a permanent backstop arrangement, the UK would be entitled to terminate the withdrawal agreement under Article 62 of the Vienna convention on the Law of Treaties'.
The DUP today edged towards backing Theresa May's Brexit deal when MPs vote for the third time next week as the Chancellor Philip Hammond was brought in as emergency talks turned to money.
Mr Hammond is leading negotiations with the Unionist party who previously grabbed an extra £1billion of funding for Northern Ireland in exchange for propping up the Government for two years until this summer.
Earlier today, in a significant boost to the Prime Minister, a DUP representative admitted it was 'involved in ongoing and significant discussions with the Government today' over her EU divorce.
There is also growing pressure on Attorney General Geoffrey Cox to change his legal advice to ease fears that Britain would be trapped 'indefinitely' in the Irish backstop - and Mrs May's top lawyer is also at today's talks.
Other insiders suggested that the Government could promise to pump more money into Northern Ireland. The party negotiated an extra £1billion of funding in exchange for supporting Theresa May in a 'supply and confidence' deal struck in 2017.
The DUP is said to be getting closer to ordering its 10 MPs to back Mrs May's deal, and would bring a large number of Brexiteers with them including high-profile members of the Tory ERG group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Speaking in Washington Arlene Foster, who met Donald Trump yesterday, said she was 'working very hard' with Mrs May, adding: 'We want to make sure we get there.'
One source told The Sun said: 'The donors have turned off the taps. They want a deal' while other insiders suggested that the Government could promise to pump more money into Northern Ireland when their 'supply and confidence' deal expires this summer.
There is also growing pressure on Attorney General Geoffrey Cox to change his legal advice to ease fears that Britain would be trapped 'indefinitely' in the Irish backstop.
He's said to be concentrating on Article 62 of the Vienna Convention, which allows countries to exit treaties if there are 'fundamental change of circumstances not foreseen by the parties'.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, pictured leaving the Commons last night, is said to be ‘updating’ his legal advice to include his view that the UK could withdraw unilaterally from the Irish backstop
But member of the Tory ERG Brexiteer group are said to have called Mr Cox's work on this 'badly misconceived' and have given him a deadline of Sunday to come up with a solution that would convince them to vote through Mrs May's deal next week.
Laywers have also said Article 62 is a 'red herring' because a war is considered one of the only ways to invoke it.
The Prime Minister is set to bring her Brexit deal back to the Commons for a third meaningful vote next week.
General Geoffrey Cox has sought to provide further legal assurances about the Irish backstop to get it over the line.
But Mrs May's hopes of persuading Eurosceptics and the DUP to back the deal were dealt a blow after the 'Star Chamber' of Brexiteer lawyers rejected Mr Cox's latest assessment.
The group of lawyers, led by veteran Tory Sir Bill Cash, said a suggestion that the UK could use the Vienna Convention - the international agreement that lays down the rules about treaties - to unilaterally pull out of the backstop was 'badly misconceived'.
The panel of lawyers, which significantly also includes DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, rejected the supplementary legal advice from Mr Cox.
The Attorney General's advice hinges on Article 62 of the Vienna Convention, which says that if there has been 'a fundamental change of circumstances' following the conclusion of a treaty 'which was not foreseen by the parties', then the countries involved would be allowed to withdraw from it.
Mr Cox said: 'It is in my view clear and undoubted in those exceptional circumstances that international law provides the (UK) with the right to terminate the Withdrawal Agreement.'
But the Brexit-backing lawyers said 'given the high burden that a state must meet to use it, and given the extreme reluctance of international courts and tribunals to accept it' the Vienna Convention route 'supplies no assurance whatsoever that the UK could terminate the Withdrawal Agreement in a lawful manner'.