Cabinet trio warn that they will help delay Brexit rather than leave Europe with no deal

<em>Warning – Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke have warned Tory Brexiteers that Parliament will prevent them forcing a ‘disastrous’ no-deal break with the EU (Picture: PA)</em>
Warning – Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke have warned Tory Brexiteers that Parliament will prevent them forcing a ‘disastrous’ no-deal break with the EU (Picture: PA)

A trio of Cabinet minister have warned that they will push for a delay to Brexit if a deal cannot be reached next week.

Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke said it was clear that a majority of MPs would support an extension to Article 50 rather than leave Europe without a deal.

Writing in the Daily Mail, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Business Secretary and Justice Secretary said Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) will only have themselves to blame if Britain’s departure from the EU is delayed.

They said leaving without an agreement in place with Brussels would weaken national security, “severely” damage the economy, and risk the break-up of the United Kingdom.

“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 European Union on March 29,” they said.

They added: “It is time that many of our Conservative party colleagues in the ERG recognise that Parliament will stop a disastrous no-deal Brexit on March 29.

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

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Their comments suggest they could defy Prime Minister Theresa May and vote for to delay Brexit in next week’s crunch Commons vote.

The trio’s warning prompted Conservative pro-Brexit MP Andrew Bridgen, a member of the European Research Group, to call for their resignation.

<em>Theresa May has repeatedly insisted that the UK will leave Europe on March 29 as planned (Picture: AP/Olivier Matthys)</em>
Theresa May has repeatedly insisted that the UK will leave Europe on March 29 as planned (Picture: AP/Olivier Matthys)

“What they are actually saying is that they are rejecting collective responsibility of being in Government, they are rejecting Government policy and they are threatening to vote against Government policy next week,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“In that case, they should do the honourable thing and resign from the Government immediately.”

He accused Downing Street of orchestrating their actions in an attempt to pressurise Tory Brexiteers into backing Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.

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 House to extend the Article 50 withdrawal process if there is no deal by mid-March.

A similar amendment was defeated by MPs last month, but there is speculation that enough Conservative rebels, alarmed that there is still no deal in place, could be prepared to back it this time round for it to pass.

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 March 29 exit if the “intransigence” of hard-line Brexiteers means Mrs May’s deal is again rejected by the House.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted Britain will leave on March 29 as planned.

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 her 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 make another statement to the House and table an amendable motion to be debated and voted on the following day.

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