The revelation was made by Tory MP Bernard Jenkin on BBC Newsnight after he’d examined the behaviour of EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on the Storyville documentary Brexit: Behind Closed Doors. Mr Jenkin explained: “The one time that Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt started to get worried is when they thought we might be leaving without an agreement. They began to get really worried.”
In spite of this, Prime Minister Theresa May remains despite to get her deal passed through the House of Common in early June.
Presented as a Withdrawal Agreement Bill with concessions to the Labour Party, Mrs May will try to do what she failed to do three times before and get the bill ratified.
But Labour have already claimed that they will not vote for the deal as antipathy among Tory Brexiteers reaches an all-time high.
European Research Group chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “I hope that the Prime Minister will look at the figures, look at the lack of support for her deal, remember that she lost the first vote by 230 and the constitutional conventions and recognise that, in truth, the Prime Minister does not command a majority in the House of Commons.
“We see that with the lack of business in the House of Commons – the last Bill of any significance we’ve had before us has been on wild animals in circuses. The House of Commons is not functioning.”
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he suggested it would be “more dignified and more elegant” if Mrs May followed the constitutional convention of quitting if she lost the support of a Commons majority rather than relying on an internal Tory rule change to oust her.
Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Michael Gove refused to guarantee that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would come to the Commons in the week beginning June 3, as had previously been promised.
“We will reflect over the course of the next few days on how people look at the proposition that has been put forward,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“But there has to be a vote on a Withdrawal Agreement implementation bill.”
He added: “I think that, rather than saying anything precipitate, I think everyone should take an opportunity to reflect on what the PM will say later today and look at the Bill.”
The Prime Minister’s deal, which opens up the possibility of a second referendum, was described as “dead on arrival”, with the prospect of a larger Tory revolt than her previous failed attempt to get a Brexit agreement through Parliament.
Leadership rivals Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab were among Tories who backed Mrs May’s deal in March but have vowed to oppose the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB).
Rejection of the WAB would heap further pressure on Mrs May to quit immediately, but some Tories called on her to go now without even risking the humiliation of a fourth Commons defeat on Brexit.
Mrs May, who will face the Commons on Wednesday, hopes her 10-point compromise plan will woo enough Labour and DUP MPs to make up for Tory Eurosceptics who are implacably opposed to her deal.
In a letter to Mr Corbyn, she highlighted the tests he had set at the start of the failed process to reach a cross-party agreement, and insisted that the proposals would hold “for the remainder of this parliament” – a reference to his concerns that her successor could unpick a deal.
She told him: “I have shown … that I am willing to compromise to deliver Brexit for the British people.
“The WAB is our last chance to do so. I ask you to compromise too so that we can deliver what both our parties promised in our manifestos and restore faith in our politics.”