Cabinet ministers warn May they will defy her and back Brexit delay to avoid ‘disastrous’ no deal

Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke offer warning to the European Research Group (ERG)

Friday 22 February 2019 23:45
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Three cabinet ministers have issued a blunt warning to Theresa May that they will defy her and back delaying Brexit to avoid a “disastrous” no deal scenario.

Ahead of crucial votes in the Commons, Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke have called on the prime minister to ensure there was more time to negotiate with the EU if it was required.

In an attempt to stop the Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) from pushing for a no-deal, the three senior ministers said it was time to accept MPs would not let the UK crash out of the EU without a deal.

Their comments are likely to be seen as a thinly veiled warning that they could defy the prime minister in next week’s crunch Commons vote.

Writing in the Daily Mail, the ministers said: “It is time that many of our Conservative party colleagues in the ERG recognise that parliament will stop a disastrous no-deal Brexit on 29 March.

“If that happens, they will have no one to blame but themselves for delaying Brexit.”

Downing Street responded to the article, saying: “The PM is working hard to ensure we get a deal with the EU that allows us to deliver on the result of the referendum.

“That is where the cabinet’s energy should be focused.”

Moderate Conservative MPs have already written to chief whip Julian Smith to warn they are ready to vote for a delay to the UK’s exit if the “intransigence” of hardline Brexiteers means Ms May’s deal is again rejected.

On Wednesday, the Commons is expected to consider an amendment tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Conservative former minister Sir Oliver Letwin enabling the Commons to extend the Article 50 withdrawal process if there is no deal by mid-March.

Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke entering Downing Street

A similar amendment was defeated by MPs last month, but there is speculation that it could now pass because there are enough Tory rebels to back it, alarmed that there is still no deal in place.

Talks with Brussels are due to resume next week as ministers continue to seek legally binding changes to the Northern Ireland backstop, that will enable Ms May to finally to get the withdrawal agreement through the Commons.

MPs in the ERG have warned they will again vote against the deal if they are not satisfied with the changes.

Downing Street has said if there is no deal by Tuesday, the prime minister will at that point make another statement to the House and table an amendable motion to be debated and voted on the following day.

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