ESTHER McVey’s Tory leadership bid hit an unforeseen bump yesterday as social media users reacted to her suggestion of an “invisible border” with the Republic of Ireland.

Appearing on Sky News, the former minister was asked if she would reopen negotiations with the EU if selected to head her party. She said Europe has made it clear it does not want to, adding: “They have said that Withdrawal Agreement is the only one they want.

Parliament has made it clear they don’t want that Withdrawal Agreement, not once, not twice. It’s a bad deal – that Withdrawal Agreement vote has sailed.”

McVey, who says October 31 must be remain the Brexit date, also insisted there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in a no-deal scenario – because an “invisible” option will be operational instead.

Despite the short time available before the Brexit deadline – which will also take in Westminster’s summer recess – the MP said the required technology could be put in place to establish a reliable and secure “invisible border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic within the timeframe.

Insisting the Tories will “get real” on the Irish border issue, she said: “If there’s no deal we know that the EU ain’t going to put up a border, we know Ireland isn’t going to put up a border, so we have to make sure that people understand.

“The technology already exists to be able to put that in place, and that’s now what we need to make sure that we do.

“When you are taking about checks, the admin, customs declaration is online, and when you talk about a border, there’s already a border for currency and VAT, so we know the technology exists, we’ve already been having meetings in the House on what is possible there, so we know we can go ahead and have the invisible border, so there will not be a hard border.”

But the claims did not impress viewers, who expressed their incredulity on social media.

One described McVey’s policy as “unicorns for all and let’s build more houses out of gingerbread”, while another commented that she was “going down the route of building things with magic beans”.

Another poster questioned whether there was “a sweepstake for the most stupid thing” politicians said on television, and one comment read: “Apparently McVey stands for the Harry Potter wing of the Tory party, where borders are invisible, illegal immigration is stopped by forcefields, Rules of Origin are sold on Diagon Alley, and the Good Friday Agreement was signed by the Ministry of Magic.”

Disagreement over the Irish backstop sank three attempts by Theresa May to pass her Withdrawal Agreement, and McVey resigned from the Cabinet over the issue.

On May’s proposition, McVey commented: “It was always a poor deal and I preferred leaving without a deal. I therefore voted against it twice.”

She said the Withdrawal Agreement “ship has now sailed” and should be “put out of its misery”, and that paying £39 billion for a lengthy implementation period would not “cut the mustard” with an “increasingly impatient public”.

McVey, who would cut foreign aid to fund “radical changes” to policing and schools in England, argued: “This country needs a genuinely bold, new approach. So we must now leave the EU on October 31 with a clean break.”

Meanwhile, her former Cabinet colleague Damian Green – a close ally of May – said he would support Matt Hancock in the contest and warned against having a “divisive” figure at the helm.