At long last, the cabinet is rebelling against Theresa May to block a no-deal Brexit

The revolt by Amber Rudd and her fellow ministers could open the way to a Final Say referendum on the terms of leaving the EU

Saturday 23 February 2019 17:01
Comments
Theresa May saddened by MP departures

It seems the defections to the Independent Group of MPs have jolted both main parties to their senses. The Conservative cabinet has finally moved against the prime minister to insist that she rule out leaving the European Union without an agreement. And the Labour opposition, as we noted yesterday, is moving towards a Final Say referendum on any Brexit deal.

This morning’s article by three cabinet ministers, Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke, is a welcome sign of the limits to the patience of senior members of the government with Theresa May’s dangerous driving near a cliff edge.

The three ministers say: “If there is no breakthrough in the coming week, the balance of opinion in parliament is clear – that it would be better to seek to extend Article 50 and delay our date of departure rather than crash out of the EU on 29 March.”

This is as close to open revolt as the conventions of cabinet government allow. They do not have to say it, but the threat is clear: that they will resign if necessary to vote on Wednesday for the plan laid out by Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the home affairs select committee.

This would take control of the legislative timetable from the government and pave the way to pass a law to require Ms May to ask the EU for more time if she cannot win approval for a deal by 13 March.

That would, at long last, reduce the options facing parliament to two. By “taking no deal off the table” it would force MPs to vote for the prime minister’s deal, with whatever bits of legal ribbon the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, has managed to attach to it by then, or to do the sensible thing and pause the process.

And if parliament does decide that the Brexit process needs more time, then the logical consequence of that is that the British people should be consulted. That is the significance of the proposal put forward by Phil Wilson and Peter Kyle, the Labour MPs, in which John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, is said to be interested. The Wilson-Kyle plan is that parliament should approve the prime minister’s (revised) deal, subject to a confirmatory referendum.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

That would mean a Final Say referendum, for which The Independent has campaigned and for which we encourage readers to march on 23 March. It would be different from the 2016 referendum in that it would offer two defined options: the prime minister’s deal or remaining in the EU on existing terms.

Some Brexiteers would complain about the absence of a no-deal option on the ballot paper, but they have to accept that, after nearly three years, there is a majority neither in parliament nor among the people for that option. It would be the most damaging choice of all, and the country is not remotely prepared for it.

Ms Rudd and her cabinet colleagues are quite right finally to rule it out.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in