Hard Brexit supporters including Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa Villiers and Kate Hoey have been placed on an “attack list” of 20 MPs by a pro-EU group that will attempt to oust them by mobilising its 500,000 supporters.
Open Britain, the successor organisation to the Remain campaign whose board includes Lord Mandelson, believes it can unseat MPs even where they have large majorities by targeting its considerable resources on them.
It will also give its backing to 20 of the most Europhile MPs in an attempt to redraw the balance believe Leavers and Remainers in Parliament.
Open Britain has teamed up with two other pro-EU organisations, European Movement and Britain for Movement, to access another 100,000 activists for what it calls its “20/20 key seat strategy”.
Lord Mandelson said: “Election candidates of all parties should be demanding that a hard Brexit is rejected and making clear that they will reserve judgment on the outcome until they see whether we get exactly the same trade benefits, as [Brexit secretary] David Davis has promised.”
Stephen Dorrell, the former Tory MP who chairs European Movement, said: “This election is about something much bigger than party politics – it is about our future relationship with the rest of Europe.
“Pro-Europeans need to stand up and be counted between now and 8 June. The supporters of our organisations want to be know where they can make a difference in this campaign and we are providing the tools for them to be able to.”
Meanwhile Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister, said that trying to downplay Brexit in the election “just won’t work”.
Writing in the Guardian, he said: “Ignoring the Brexit issue or trying to downplay it as one issue out of many just won’t work … we have to expose the fact that the mandate the Tories are asking for is not an open negotiation in the interests of the country but for a Brexit at any cost driven by the ideology of the right of the Tory party.
“Yet if this is seen as a narrow Labour point, it will be much less persuasive. Hence the absolute necessity, in the Labour interest, of rallying people to a more reasonable and open position on Brexit across the party divide.”