The Brexit Secretary has consistently refused to negotiate directly with European leaders but in a damning analysis claimed a “calculated gamble” had been taken by the government that would see a “terrible” situation if a hard border became permanent. The report also revealed Brexit Minister Sir Keir Starmer was widely seen as having rubber-stamped an amendment to British law with not a hint of hesitation about compromising the Government’s pro-EU position. Mr Gove insisted he had once again “defended our country” in a strong post on the issue of the Irish border issue and the deal reached with the EU to establish a backstop could still be good enough to restore relations between the UK and the EU.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, the Tory grandee – who survived a mass resignation over his backbench changes to Brexit legislation – said: “I think the deal which everyone has to accept is pretty close to what we agreed to with the EU, but also in Britain, and that was the Article 50 invitation to the EU to join us in that guarantee of ever closer border between the United Kingdom and Ireland. “If the DUP and the Ulster Unionists were to rise up and oppose this bill and push for that guarantee of ever closer border with Ireland then you can imagine the damage this would cause, not just to the people of Northern Ireland but to the whole Union. “So I think that all of us from both sides have to be very careful about the suggestion that this is somehow a blindingly white-knight deal which is really not.”

John Major, Sir Keir Starmer and David Davis at a European Parliament Committee meeting last year

The report added: “In the cabinet, if those prime ministers [David Cameron and David Davis] present this bill, then they are going to face enormous pressure from the DUP, from the Ulster Unionists, from the Left that you cannot have something on paper that supposedly promises not to be a backstop but in fact is an open door to a backstop.” Mr Gove also admitted after the vote to Remain was defeated that he was “knocked from his feet” by his former allies who backed Brexit. “I knew back then that that was not going to be the answer at all,” he said. “I know the regret I have now because I can see that that is what it is – is that my colleagues suddenly have this coming out of their bones. “Because my colleagues had seen their deal, which set out our position, on the threat to membership of the single market, and that was accepted by practically every other party in the country.

Brexit: David Davis meets EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier Mon, March 19, 2018 David Davis meets EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels ahead of crunch Brexit talks later this week Play slideshow AFP/Getty Images 1 of 11 Brexit Secretary David Davis (L) and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier meet at the European Commission in Brussels