THE Tory leadership contenders are ignoring the reality of Brexit, with each vying to offer a “more attractive unicorn” to party members, campaigners have claimed.

Molly Scott Cato, the vice-chair of the European Movement group, has written an open letter to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss urging them to address the “hostile economic environment” created by leaving the EU.

She said it has “emptied supermarket shelves, stifled growth and hit our poorest families harder.”

The warning comes as Dover was forced to declare a “critical incident” on Friday because of huge tailbacks of traffic queuing to get to France due to passport check delays.

It also emerged the UK’s Brexit divorce bill could rise to £42.5billion – billions more than originally estimated.

READ MORE: Brexit bill jumps by £10bn – but Tories end cost announcements

Scott Cato, an economist and former MEP, said: “What’s frustrating is seeing a small number of people – the members of the Conservative Party – are effectively judging people in a beauty pageant which is taking place in a complete fantasy land, and they are all offering a more attractive unicorn, basically.

“For an economist who has also worked in the European Parliament, that is incredibly infuriating – it is encouraging people to continue this drift towards fantasy and democratic politics is not compatible with that.

“We have lost friends in the world, we have a very non-productive economy, and we don’t have the skills because we haven’t invested, and we have useless infrastructure.

“That is the reality against which our political discourse should take place, but instead, it takes place in this total fantasy world.”

The letter, published by the European Movement in Scotland, outlines a series of questions for the Tory leadership candidates, including what they will do to reverse a slump in sterling, help small businesses export to the EU and whether they will renegotiate on freedom of labour movement with Europe.

It states: “Forget internal party debates. Forget trying to emulate your predecessors.

“Forget the issues that defined elections long forgotten, and answer the questions that, as the last two candidates to become Prime Minister, you owe the people of our country an honest answer to.”

The letter adds: “Throughout this leadership contest, you have both shown that you will do and say anything to cover up the economic damage that Brexit is doing.

“But the British people are not fooled and, as project fear turns into Brexit reality, we are not surprised to see public opinion turning increasingly strongly against our decision to leave the EU.”

Yesterday, Truss – a former Remainer turned ardent Brexiteer – vowed to review all EU laws retained after Brexit by the end of next year in a “red tape bonfire” if she becomes prime minister, and to scrap or replace those that are deemed to hinder UK growth.

She said that if elected, she will set a “sunset” deadline for every piece of EU-derived business regulation and assess whether it stimulates domestic growth or investment by the end of 2023.

Industry experts would be tasked to create “better home-grown laws” to replace those that fail the test, if they are not ditched altogether.

But critics warned the proposal could damage workers’ rights.

The National: Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC

Frances O’Grady (above), the general secretary of the TUC federation of trade unions, warned that the “cynical and reckless proposals threaten hard-won workers’ rights”.

“Holiday pay, equal pay for women and men, safe limits on working hours and parental leave are just a few of the rights underpinned by retained EU law. These are all essential – not a nice to have,” she said.

Sunak took a swipe at his rival’s previous stance on Brexit as he delivered a speech yesterday in Grantham.

“If we are to deliver on the promise of Brexit, then we’re going to need someone who actually understands Brexit, believes in Brexit, voted for Brexit,” he told the crowd.

Sunak has said he would appoint a Brexit minister to go through the remaining 2400 EU laws still on the statute book – who would be instructed to come forward with the first set of recommendations for rules to be scrapped or changed within 100 days of Sunak entering No 10.