Brexit: Minister warns MPs they face general election if they vote to remain in customs union or single market

Rob Merrick
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Brexit secretary admits EU now 'in control' of UK's departure from bloc

Brexit secretary admits EU now 'in control' of UK's departure from bloc

Theresa May will ignore any Commons vote for a softer Brexit and push for a general election instead, a cabinet minister has warned MPs.

An ‘indicative vote” to keep the UK in the EU customs union or single market would be unacceptable because it collided with the Conservative election manifesto, Stephen Barclay said.

“The risk of a general election increases,” the Brexit secretary said, in a threat to MPs refusing to pass the prime minister’s unpopular deal.

It came as Mr Barclay was repeatedly asked if the so-called “indicative votes” MPs planned to stage this week on all possible ways out of the crisis would be binding and accepted by the government.

He made clear a result would be rejected if it were to collide with fundamental commitments the government had given in its manifesto – which included leaving the EU’s economic structures.

Mr Barclay also said MPs trying to legislate for the customs union or single market would be triggering a longer Brexit delay, requiring participation in the European Parliament elections.

“The risk of a general election increases, because you potentially have a situation where parliament is instructing the executive to do something that is counter to what it was elected to do,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

The incendiary comments came little more than one hour after Philip Hammond urged MPs of all parties to “get themselves together in a room” to find a solution to the Brexit crisis, admitting that Theresa May’s deal was all-but dead.

The chancellor took the extraordinary step of asking the Commons to seize control with an alternative plan, saying: “Let’s hear about it this week and then we can move forward.”

The comments were certain to inflame Brexiteer Tories, some inside the cabinet, who oppose “indicative votes”, fearing the Commons will chart a way to a softer Brexit – or even a Final Say referendum.

Mr Barclay then said: “If an amendment goes through where parliament takes control of the order paper then that leaves open the door to Parliament then legislating to take no-deal off the table.

“And that is something that Brexiteers like me would see as a massive risk to Brexit because if parliament votes against the deal, and also votes to take no-deal off the table, then the only option is to then have European parliamentary elections.”

The Brexit secretary said that if the Commons took control of the order paper and voted for a different outcome, it would potentially collide with fundamental commitments the government had given in its manifesto.