Up to 40 Tory ministers are poised to quit if Theresa May forces through plans for a No Deal Brexit, Amber Rudd has reportedly warned Downing Street.
Rudd is said to want a free vote for Tory MPs on the Cooper Amendment, which hopes to secure powers for MPs to extend Article 50 if the Prime Minister fails to get a deal through Parliament by February 26th.
But Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay warned the EU might not support an extension to Article 50, even if the UK asked for one.
He told the BBC: “It is not in the unilateral gift of the UK to extend. There are practical issues. They have been very clear that they don’t want an extension with no purpose.
“And so we come back to the issue as to what it is MPs are for and just what they are against.”
Despite Barclay’s warning, the work and pensions secretary believes that 25 to 40 members of the government want to vote for the amendment, which is already publicly backed by Tory backbenchers Sir Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles, and Labour’s Hillary Benn, chair of the Exiting the European Union Select Committee.
Her private warning, reported by multiple media outlets including The Times, was backed up by government sources. One Tory MP said: “Amber is telling Downing Street to make it a free vote on behalf of lots of people.” Another Tory source added: “If they don’t do this there will be resignations. Two ministers have told No 10 they will resign.”
Rudd herself has ruled out resigning over no deal, telling Sky News that “you have more influence in cabinet”.
However Business Secretary Greg Clark is on record as saying no deal would cause “incalculable damage” to Britain’s economy, so he could very well quit over no deal.
Meanwhile, defence minister Tobias Ellwood hinted at his support for delaying Brexit through a baking analogy, tweeting: “Cooked a banana cake yesterday. Told my son it will be ready in 20 mins – according to the cookbook. It took 30. It was a big decision – honouring the cookbook or take more time to get the right result.”
Cooked a banana cake yesterday. Told my son it will be ready in 20 mins – according to the cookbook.
It took 30.
It was a big decision – honouring the cookbook or take more time to get the right result. pic.twitter.com/aamhOou7BA
— Tobias Ellwood MP (@Tobias_Ellwood) January 21, 2019
Business minister Richard Harrington has also spoken out against no deal.
Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Mrs May dismissed the plan put forward by Yvette Cooper, saying: “There is widespread concern about the possibility of the UK leaving without a deal. And there are those on both sides of the House who want the government to rule this out.
“But we need to be honest with the British people about what that means. The right way to rule out no deal is for this House to approve a deal with the European Union. That is what this government is seeking to achieve.”