Top government ministers pressure Theresa May to rule out ‘no-deal’ Brexit | Politics News
Theresa May is under increased pressure to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit from among her top ministers.
Following reports a group of nearly 20 ministers have been meeting to discuss plans to stop a no-deal Brexit, the prime minister faced a series of interventions from members of her government.
Chancellor Philip Hammond repeated his warning that leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement would be a “betrayal” of the 2016 referendum vote.
Mrs May was also dared to sack her business minister Richard Harrington if she disagreed with him speaking out about the “disaster” of quitting the EU without a deal.
Meanwhile, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd used a TV interview to refuse to rule out resigning if the UK heads for a disorderly departure from the bloc.
The prime minister has warned a failure by MPs to back her withdrawal agreement with the EU risks a no-deal Brexit or even no Brexit at all.
Mrs May has embarked on cross-party talks following the overwhelming rejection of her deal last week by the House of Commons.
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused to take part until the prime minister rules out a no-deal Brexit.
On Thursday, Mr Hammond used an event at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to reiterate his opposition to the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement.
He said: “In the 2016 referendum a promise was made to the majority who voted for Brexit – that they were voting for a more prosperous future.
“Not leaving would be seen as a betrayal of that referendum decision.
“But leaving without a deal would undermine our future prosperity, and would equally represent a betrayal of the promises that were made.”
Mr Hammond made similar comments in the House of Commons earlier this month, during the debate on Mrs May’s subsequently rejected deal.
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell claimed Mr Hammond “must now surely consider his position in the government” amid Mrs May’s continuing refusal to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
Meanwhile, Mr Harrington was reported to have told an audience of German business people he was “delighted” by the warning of plane manufacturer Airbus against the “madness” of a no-deal Brexit.
“This is a disaster for business and business needs to know where it is, and that doesn’t mean, ‘Oh great, two weeks before we are leaving, now we can rule out crashing out’,” he said, as reported by The Guardian.
“I really don’t believe in this idea. I am very happy to be public about it and very happy if the prime minister decides I am not the right person to do the business industry job.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for a second EU referendum, said it should “send shivers through the country to see prominent ministers like Hammond and Harrington expressing their desperation and fear about impact of Brexit”.
A cross-party group of MPs are hoping to add an amendment to Mrs May’s plan B on Brexit, to be debated in the House of Commons next week, in an attempt to obstruct a no-deal Brexit.
Led by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the proposal would see the government legally forced to seek a delay to Brexit if a withdrawal agreement hasn’t been approved by MPs by 26 February.
Ms Rudd, a prominent figure in the Remain campaign in 2016, has called for a free vote in the House of Commons in order to allow government ministers to back Ms Cooper’s plan.
“I’m committed to making sure that we avoid no deal,” she told BBC Newsnight.
Asked whether that could include her resigning from government, Ms Rudd said: “There’s lots of moving parts at the moment.
“I’m just going to carry on trying to make my point in my words.
She added: “I’m going to wait and see.”
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, also in Davos, suggested Mrs May could be left as a caretaker prime minister by next week, if Ms Cooper’s and other tabled amendments successfully put control of the Brexit process in the hands of MPs rather than the government.
He told CNN: “Next week we have to await the votes in the British parliament on all these various options.
“And then we have to see whether Theresa May is the prime minister of the government or will be more… taking care of the decisions of parliament and making sure that step-by-step they’re carried out.”