The Cabinet war over no-deal Brexit escalated today as ministers openly clashed over Britain’s future with Europe.
Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt – a Brexiteer – went public in defence of crashing out of the EU – arguing it is better than accepting a bad deal.
But Amber Rudd, the Remainer Work and Pensions Secretary, hit back online tweeting a link to a CBI warning about the dangers of no deal to business.
Theresa May’s senior ministers are deeply split over what to do if her deal cannot be pushed through Parliament after Tuesday’s 230-vote rout.
Ms Mordaunt insisted today the EU had to believe a no deal Brexit was still an option to win new concessions from Brussels and make the deal acceptable to Tory rebels.
Other ministers – led by Business Secretary Greg Clark and Justice Secretary David Gauke – have warned no deal is so bad they would resign to stop it.
The splits come as Mrs May has been holding talks with rival political leaders to try to come up with a Brexit Pan B in the wake of her humiliating defeat.
She held a ‘constructive’ calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch PM Mark Rutte last night, and is expected to have more calls with EU leaders in the coming days.
And she will today hold meetings with many of her Cabinet ministers in No10 today to discuss Brexit and how the cross-party talks have gone.
Senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper became the latest politician to draft laws that would seize control of the Brexit process from the Government.
Theresa May’s (pictured today leaving Downing Street) senior ministers are deeply split over what to do if her deal cannot be pushed through Parliament after Tuesday’s 230-vote rout
The Cabinet war over no deal escalated today as Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt (pictured in Downing Street today) went public in defence of crashing out being better than accepting a bad deal
Ms Mordaunt insisted today the EU had to believe a no deal Brexit was still an option to win new concessions from Brussels and make the deal acceptable to Tory rebels
Remainer Cabinet minister Amber Rudd warned of the dangers of businesses of a no deal Brexit on her Twitter this morning
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay (left) and Environment Secretary Michael Gove were among those attending meetings in Downing Street today
PM makes ‘NO CHANGE’ to her Brexit demands in talks with European leaders despite defeat
Theresa May made no change to her demands in talks with European Union leaders despite her Brexit plan being defeated by MPs earlier this week, it has been reported.
Mrs May’s requests continued to focus around either a legally binding time-limit for the Irish ‘backstop’; a right for Britain to unilaterally withdraw, or a commitment to a trade deal finalisation before 2021 to prevent the backstop from coming into force, the Telegraph said, citing unnamed senior EU diplomatic sources.
The backstop is an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of border checks on the frontier between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Mrs May repeated her demands in talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish leader Leo Varadkar, the paper reported.
On Friday night, May was also going to meet Arlene Foster, leader of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which has 10 seats in parliament and supports May’s government but not her Brexit deal, a Telegraph reporter said on Twitter. The meeting would also be attended by Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP.
Mrs May’s deal for Britain to leave the EU was defeated earlier this week by 230 votes. She has appealed to lawmakers to come together to try to break the impasse.
But the PM faced a fresh onslaught from Boris Johnson, who condemned her for failing to try to remove the Irish backstop as he made a thinly-veiled leadership pitch.
Following a debate on last night’s Question Time, Ms Mordaunt launched her staunch defence of preparing for no deal today.
She said: ‘The upsides of leaving outweigh the downsides of staying/No Deal disruption.
Boris blasts May for ‘kowtowing’ to Brussels as he makes his pitch to lead the country
Boris Johnson condemned Theresa May for failing to even try and remove the Irish border backstop today as he made a pitch for the Tory crown.
The former foreign secretary said after Tuesday’s devastating defeat, the Prime Minister should make a ‘final offer’ to the EU of a deal that strips out the border plan and withholds half the £39billion divorce bill until a trade deal is finalised.
Mr Johnson said he would be ‘utterly amazed’ if Brussels said no but insisted Britain would flourish even if it had to leave without a deal on March 29.
Mr Johnson insisted delaying exit day would further ‘erode trust’ in politics and fuel suspicion of an ‘elite conspiracy to thwart Brexit’.
As Mrs May continues cross party talks on a Plan B Brexit, Mr Johnson warned her not to concede to a permanent customs union as the price for getting her deal through the Commons.
In a thinly-veiled leadership pitch, Mr Johnson’s wide-ranging speech – hosted by major Tory donor JCB boss Anthony Bamford – included promises to cut taxes and limit immigration.
Mr Johnson is seen by many as a front runner for the Tory crown – but is also loathed by many Tory MPs who dismissed his pitch for unity today.
‘It’s only when no deal is better than a is believed by the EU that we’ll maximise our chance of a deal.
‘Not honouring the result of the referendum would be appalling.’
Asked about the comment today, Mrs May’s official spokeswoman today said: ‘The PM has always said that this country’s best days lie ahead and her focus is on leaving the European Union with a deal, that is what she believes is the way to leave in a smooth and orderly way.’
Mrs May today held talks with most of her senior ministers in Downing Street today where they will discuss how her talks with rival political leaders to come up with a Brexit Plan B have gone.
But she is not expected to hold any more meetings with MPs from rival political parties today.
Ms Cooper’s proposals are an evolved version of a plan produced by Tory Nick Boles earlier this week.
If it were to pass, the Bill would force the Government to delay exit day if there is no deal in place by March 5.
The new version of the draft laws removes the idea of handing control of negotiations to a group of senior MPs after it was criticised.
But the development of the plan on the Labour benches after it was originally a Tory idea will fuel fears in Downing Street a cross-party alliance wants to remove the Government from talks.
The new developments come as it emerged five Tory ministers warned Mrs May yesterday they would resign if she did not offer a free vote on a Plan B Brexit.
Mr Boles confirmed it was from the same team who drafted his plans earlier this week. Neither version can make progress without a dramatic suspension of the normal rules of Parliament
Senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper has become the latest MP to draft laws that would seize control of the Brexit process from the Government
Ministers will QUIT if Theresa May orders them to vote against a backbench plan to let MPs block a no-deal Brexit, warns Nick Boles
Ministers in Theresa May’s Government are prepared to defy her and to vote for a backbench plan to give MPs power to block a no-deal Brexit, a Tory MP has warned.
Nick Boles told the BBC that some non-Cabinet ministers had told him directly they would quit if whipped against a bill allowing parliamentarians to demand Article 50 be extended for fresh talks with Brussels.
Speaking to the Radio 4 podcast Political Thinking the Grantham and Stamford MP also said members of his local Tory party in Lincolnshire may try to deselect him because of his stance on Brexit and said he continued to receive death threats.
Mr Boles’ dropped a planned bill giving more power to the backbenches on Wednesday but has swung behind the cross-party replacement European Union Withdrawal (Number 3) Bill, which is due to be tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper on Monday.
He told the programme’s presenter Nick Robinson: ‘We have had indications that many ministers, including Cabinet ministers are very, very keen to see it pass and are telling the Prime Minister that they will not vote against it.
‘There is a bandwagon rolling, it’s got a lot of momentum behind it and I very much hope that any MP who shares my view that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster, will jump on board.
‘I have been told directly by ministers, not in the Cabinet, that they have said that they would resign if they are whipped to vote against it.’
MPs are expected to stage a series of votes on possible options on January 29 after Mrs May’s Brexit deal was rejected by a landslide on Tuesday.
But Westminster expects the Prime Minister to continue trying to push her deal through largely unamended.
Ms Cooper’s draft Bill has been placed on the Commons order paper for Monday.
What does Yvette Cooper’s and Nick Bole’s plan do?
The text of the Yvette Cooper bill has not been published but comments from Nick Boles suggest it is similar to his.
The crucial section tries to force the Government to delay exit day from March 29 if there is no deal.
Under the current timetable, Britain leaves the EU two years after it formally triggered talks by using Article 50 of the EU’s treaty.
The Boles draft said if there is no deal by March 5, the Government must seek a two year extension.
The EU has said it will consider an extension if the UK needs more time to implement a deal – but two years for more talks is a very different idea.
It could mean the Government is forced to cancel the Article 50 notification altogether to avoid breaking the new law.
None of this will happen if the MPs cannot change Commons rules to get their draft laws onto the agenda for votes as by default they will never be debated.
Mr Boles confirmed it was from the same team who drafted his plans earlier this week.
Neither version can make progress without a dramatic suspension of the normal rules of Parliament.
But the idea was boosted today as former Clerk of the Commons Lord Lisvane said the plans were ‘competently drafted’ in an interview with Politico.
While MPs work on their own plans for Brexit, Mrs May is expected to continue working with opposition politicians to find a way forward today.
One Cabinet minister told the Telegraph May would be ‘wise’ to allow a free vote because ‘there are definitely people who would resign over it.’
The group of five, thought to be among 20 ministers who could walk, visited the Prime Minister in No 10 and warned her directly that they were prepared to quit.
In other developments today, Boris Johnson is calling on the Government to ‘use Brexit to unite the country’ and focus on the issues that drove the vote for EU withdrawal.
The pointed intervention comes as Mrs May scrambles to try and get the Brexit agenda back on track after the Commons overwhelmingly rejected her plans.
Speaking at JCB headquarters in Rocester, Staffordshire on Friday, Mr Johnson said: ‘Yes, it (Brexit) was about democracy.
‘But that vote was also triggered by a feeling that, in some way, the people of this country have been drifting too far apart and in areas where we need to come together.’
Labour former prime minister Gordon Brown used a speech in Edinburgh on Thursday to call on the Government to extend Article 50 by a year in order to consult the public.
Mr Brown said Mrs May’s Brexit stalemate has left Britain ‘more divided than during the three-day week of the 1970s or during the miners’ strike of the 1980s’.
The PM was expected to use the next few days to continue talks on Brexit and make telephone calls to other EU leaders.
Mrs May will not be attending the Davos summit in Switzerland next week, Downing Street confirmed.
Labour’s Keir Starmer calls for an ‘open and frank debate’ to break the Brexit deadlock
Labour is calling for an ‘open and frank debate’ to break the Commons deadlock over Brexit
Following the crushing defeat of Theresa May’s EU withdrawal plan, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer will say there are ‘no easy routes’ out of the current crisis.
In a speech to the Fabian Society new year conference in London on Saturday, he will say it is now up to Parliament to take the ‘difficult decisions’ needed to end the impasse.
His call comes after Jeremy Corbyn reaffirmed his refusal to meet Mrs May for talks to discuss the way forward unless she takes the possibility of a no-deal Brexit off the table.
The Labour leader said the talks were ‘not genuine’ after No 10 made clear she would not accept a customs union with the EU, a measure which he said was ‘necessary’ for any new proposal to command the support of Parliament.
In a letter to the Prime Minister on Friday evening, Mr Corbyn, the only Westminster leader not to meet her, also complained she had ruled out any extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process or a second referendum.
‘Whatever one thinks of those issues, that reinforces the view these are not genuine talks, but designed to play for time and give the appearance of reaching out, whilst sticking rigidly to your own emphatically rejected deal,’ he wrote.