Wednesday, February 21

May can’t ignore soft Brexit calls



Theresa May has been warned by one of her senior ministers that she cannot afford to ignore the will of Parliament if it unites around a softer Brexit.

With MPs set to hold a second round of indicative votes on alternatives to the prime minister’s deal on Monday, Justice Secretary David Gauke said she would have to look closely at any option that could command a majority.

After 170 Tory MPs including 10 members of the Cabinet wrote to May urging her to take the UK out of the EU quickly as possible, Gauke reiterated he would resign rather than support a no deal break.

Despite MPs rejecting May’s deal for a third time on Friday, Downing Street has made clear that she intends to to bring it back to the Commons for a fourth vote possibly on Tuesday or Wednesday.

May has so far strongly rejected the idea of a customs union, saying it went against the Conservative general election manifesto and would prevent Britain striking trade deals around the world.

Any move to accept a customs union would infuriate Brexiteers and would almost certainly lead to ministerial resignations.

However Gauke told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: If Parliament is voting overwhelmingly against leaving the European Union without a deal but is voting in favour of a softer Brexit, then I don’t think it’s sustainable to ignore Parliament’s position and therefore leave without a deal.

No 10 hopes that pressure will lead to more Brexiteers reluctantly backing May’s deal after it cut the majority against it from 230 and 149 in the first two votes to 58 on Friday.

Gauke, who along with fellow pro-EU ministers Amber Rudd and Greg Clark, previously made clear he could not support a no-deal Brexit, said he would resign if that happened.

My position is that it is not the responsible thing for a government to do, to leave without a deal in these circumstances, so obviously I wouldn’t be able to remain a member of the Government that pursued that as a policy, he said.

With the Government now up against a new EU deadline of April 12, ministers played down suggestions that May could call a snap general election to break the deadlock.