Amber Rudd admits new Brexit referendum on table if Theresa May's deal rejected by parliament: 'Anything could happen'

Work and pensions secretary also undermines prime minister’s 'my deal or no deal' threat , saying: 'There isn’t a majority in the House of Commons to allow that'

Amber Rudd admits new Brexit referendum on table if Theresa May's deal rejected by parliament: 'Anything could happen'

Amber Rudd has admitted “anything could happen” if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is defeated and suggested MPs will then prefer a Final Say referendum to crashing out of the EU.

The new work and pensions secretary undermined the prime minister’s threat of “my deal or no deal”, saying: “There isn’t a majority in the House of Commons to allow that to take place.

Asked if the choice would be a fresh Brexit referendum or leaving with no deal, she replied: “It’s my view that the Commons will stop no deal”.

And she said, of next month’s crucial vote: “If it doesn’t get through, anything could happen. The Brexiteers may lose their Brexit.”

Ms Rudd also cast doubt on Ms May’s plans to seal the Brexit deal at a summit with EU leaders on Sunday, acknowledging there are still obstacles in the way.

“Hopefully it will get through this week,” she said, adding: “There is still a negotiation going on in terms of actually getting this agreement through.”

The comments make Ms Rudd the first cabinet minister to rule out a no-deal Brexit – and the first to suggest an agreement at European level could yet be derailed.

They came as the prime minister prepared to head to Brussels for talks with Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, under huge pressure for further “wins” in the final text.

However, Ms Rudd, denied the deal was doomed when it reaches the Commons, arguing MPs would “take a careful look over the abyss” and back it.

“I think likelihood is that, despite what people say, the withdrawal agreement will get through,” the May loyalist told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Ms Rudd has previously argued a ‘Norway-style EEA deal’ – effectively keeping the UK in the EU single market – is an option, if parliament rejects Ms May’s strategy.

She hinted at that approach in the interview, saying: “There will be different amendments that will be followed up on.”

In the summer, Nick Boles, a former Tory minister warned party hardliners that their “dream” of a no-deal Brexit would be blocked by at least 40 fellow Conservatives.

And The Independent revealed in June that they could use a “humble address” – the tactic Labour used to force the government to release Brexit economic assessments – to prevent it.

Earlier, another senior Tory, Damian Collins – who opposes Ms May’s deal – said the public should be given the final say if it is rejected, in either a referendum or a general election.

“I don't think, as parliament, we could just stand back and watch the country fall off the edge of a cliff without asking the people whether that was the step they wanted to take,” he said.

Confirming he will vote against the agreement, Mr Collins said: “I don't accept that this is a deal we have to accept or face the cliff-edge.”

Labour, which has vowed to stop the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal, welcomed Ms Rudd’s acknowledgement that parliament would hold the whip hand.

“Amber Rudd seems to have ignored Number 10’s spin by admitting that Parliament would stop a no deal Brexit,” said Keir Starmer, the party’s Brexit spokesman.

“It’s time for the government to drop the false choice between a bad deal and no deal, and to come forward with a plan that can command the majority support of parliament.”

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