WESTMINSTER’S soft Brexit faction is on the rise with a “growing number” of Tory MPs joining the cause, George Osborne has claimed as Theresa May scrambled to save her EU withdrawal strategy.

The former Chancellor, who famously failed to persuade David Cameron against holding the 2016 EU referendum, also did not rule out a Commons comeback after saying Tory MPs had a "consensus" view that the Prime Minister would not lead them into the next General Election.

As Mrs May was ensconced in the Downing Street bunker with the clocking ticking to next week’s European Council, her deputy spokesman declined to give any details about her meetings, phone-calls or intention to visit Brussels, simply telling reporters: “We will update you on any plans.”

Asked if Mrs May had any face-to-face meetings with members of the Democratic Unionist Party, which vetoed her Brexit proposal on Monday, the spokesman replied: “I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of the negotiation.”

As it was suggested Mrs May had ruled out paying any more money to Northern Ireland to try to remove a Unionist veto, the DUP maintained its hard line with one source noting: “This is a battle of who blinks first and we’ve cut off our eyelids.”

In Brussels, it was confirmed Donald Tusk, the European Council President, would make a statement on Brexit at 6.50am UK time on Friday. No details of what he will say were given.

Speaking at a Press Gallery lunch in the Commons, attended by fellow Tory Remainers Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, a relaxed Mr Osborne, who now edits the London Evening Standard, described the Leave vote as an “historic mistake”.

He said: “We should respect the outcome and leave but how we leave was not on the ballot paper. Whether we remain in the single market, that Margaret Thatcher created, or the customs union, was not on the ballot. Whether we shut off our country to immigrants was not on the ballot paper.”

The former Chancellor went on: “Conservatives who say we should only listen to the 52 per cent and that the 48 per cent should put up and shut up, should be told they are making a huge mistake; a mistake we paid for heavily this June.”

Noting how his paper would expose the “false arguments and broken promises of the hard Brexiteers,” Mr Osborne then said: “I am hopeful that long before we get to the General Election, a Conservative Government will be advocating a softer form of Brexit. I used to be a bit of an amateur chief whip and I don't think they've got the votes[for a hard Brexit.]”

Insisting he supported the May Government on many issues, he added: “What I don’t support is an interpretation of Brexit that, somehow, that one vote was an answer to all the questions about how we leave the EU and, as far as I can see, a growing number of Tory MPs agree with that.”

His comments came just 24 hours after Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, pointed to the possibility of a Commons majority for a soft Brexit with talks already going on behind the scenes between different political parties.

“I for one am certainly not of the view that we can take it as read that we are coming out of the single market and the customs union. I would venture in light of the economic harm that will be done to the UK…we can ultimately put together a majority view in the House of Commons[for a soft Brexit],” said the Highland MP.

Elsewhere, as Tory Brexiteers air concerns that Mrs May might be “going soft” on Brexit, Boris Johnson insisted any deal must stick to the spirit of the Leave campaign.

"It is very, very important that whatever happens now, whatever we agree, has got to be consistent with taking back control of our laws, of our borders and of our cash," said the Foreign Secretary.

Meanwhile in Dublin, Simon Coveney, the Deputy Prime Minister, made clear the Irish Government would consider alternative proposals from London but declared: “Let me be very clear, the core issues that Ireland got agreement on at the start of this week are not changing."