A group of moderate Conservative MPs from the 2015 general election intake has reportedly set up a WhatsApp group in bid to co-ordinate against the "hard Brexit" faction in their own party, it emerged on Wednesday 21 June.

The Tories are hoping to counter the European Research Group (ERG), made up of Eurosceptic backbench MPs. The group was chaired by Steve Baker until his post-election promotion to Brexit minister.

The manoeuvres are part of wider tactics within the Tory parliamentary party to secure a "softer Brexit", with at last 30 MPs telling the party's whips that quitting the EU without a deal would be unacceptable, according to Sky News.

"'No deal' is now dead," a former minister told the broadcaster.

The news comes just days after the UK and EU started two-year-long divorce talks. Brexit Secretary David Davis made some major concessions to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier by agreeing to the French politician's timetable.

The move, amongst other things, means that free trade talks between the parties will not run alongside the Brexit negotiations. The blow came as the Conservatives face post-election turmoil after failing to secure a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.

Ukip MEP Tim Aker accused the centrist Conservative MPs of attempting to water down Brexit.

"Saying that the Prime Minister must accept any deal is like an idiot going into a car showroom and driving out with a car he never wanted," he said.

"Only by saying we will walk away can we have any chance of a good deal. Without that we have no hand to defend the red lines of getting our borders back, getting our laws back, getting our money back and not paying a penny piece to the EU.

"The Tories threw away an election, now they're going to throw away this negotiation. It shows why the country needs Ukip and those Ukip voters who were tempted by Theresa May must surely be thinking again."