Cabinet split on whether to plan for no deal or offer another Brexit referendum

Cabinet ministers are at war as to whether there should be another Brexit referendum – or whether the Prime Minister should be making ‘No Deal’ a top priority.

High-profile ministers including Philip Hammond, David Gauke, Amber Rudd, Greg Clarke, and Theresa May‘s unofficial deputy David Lidington have all stepped up discussions on whether to offer another public vote on Brexit, The Times reported. 

Among those urging the Prime Minister to boost preparations for a no deal include Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Trasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, claim The Sun.    

The divisions in the Cabinet come at a crunch time, with little over 100 days until Britain leaves the EU. 

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd (pictured) said the time had come to make compromises, which she described as 'something that people do in the real world all the time

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd (pictured) said the time had come to make compromises, which she described as 'something that people do in the real world all the time

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd (pictured) said the time had come to make compromises, which she described as ‘something that people do in the real world all the time

Amber Rudd today called for Tory MPs to reach across the aisle if necessary to avoid the country ‘crashing onto the rocks’ under a No Deal outcome.

Work and Pensions Secretary Ms Rudd said today that while she expects to be accused of ‘treachery’ from some quarters, she is unsure the Prime Minister’s deal will ever enjoy sufficient support from Conservative MPs to get through a deeply divided Parliament.

None of the five cabinet ministers – all of them May loyalists – have committed to a second public vote and all might back a Parliamentary deal, a source told The Times.

They are suggesting the Prime Minister reschedule her meaningful vote for the first week of the new year, to allow time for the House to debate other options.

The PM's de facto deputy, David Lidington, is understood to be holding meetings with Tories as well as members of other parties to see how a second referendum might come about

The PM's de facto deputy, David Lidington, is understood to be holding meetings with Tories as well as members of other parties to see how a second referendum might come about

The PM’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, is understood to be holding meetings with Tories as well as members of other parties to see how a second referendum might come about

They are understood to believe that if a series of votes on alternative deals do come to Parliament, and all are rejected, then a referendum might become the only way to break the nationwide deadlock.

One cabinet minister said: ‘There should be a vote on all the options.

‘I’d expect them all to be voted down. Then once you’ve taken out all the options, and the lack of support for no deal, the House of Commons is deadlocked.

‘Another vote is another means of resolving the deadlock.’

Another cabinet source said: ‘The strategy here is step by step to take every other option off the table so there is no option but a second referendum.’

And Amber Rudd, writing in today’s Daily Mail, said: ‘There may be lost votes along the way as we edge towards a solution, but so be it. Each one will help us get to something that is workable and possible.’

She said Tory colleagues ‘might not’ be persuaded in sufficient numbers to back their leader’s deal, and added: ‘We need to try something different. 

Labour’s next move?

Yesterday Jeremy Corbyn accused Mrs May of ‘dangerously running down the clock’.

He said: ‘The last 24 hours have confirmed that Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water.

‘The prime minister has utterly failed in her attempts to deliver any meaningful changes to her botched deal.’

On Wednesday Mrs May won 200 votes to 117 among her own MPs in a no confidence motion, leaving her immune from challenge for a year.

But she is still potentially vulnerable to a no confidence motion in Parliament moved by Labour.

Labour’s moment to strike has now drawn ‘much much closer’ according to one shadow cabinet member.

But he added it would depend on the stance of the DUP, whose votes provide Mrs May her Parliamentary majority. 

‘We are watching like hawks,’ he told The Guardian. 

‘Something that people do in the real world all the time, but which seems so alien in our political culture – to engage with others and be willing to forge a consensus.’

In contrast to the incrementalist plan emerging in cabinet, yesterday Mrs May threatened EU leaders with a snap Parliamentary vote on her own plan unless they offered her further concessions on the Irish backstop.

She would almost certainly lose such a vote, a result which could would kill off negotiations and trigger a no-deal Brexit.

Mrs May issued her ultimatum to German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanual Macron, Dutch PM Mark Rutte, EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council president Donald Tusk in a closed-doors meeting in Brussels.

Downing Street last night refused to confirm that Mrs May had threatened to torpedo her own deal, but sources said she was considering a Commons vote as early as next week.

Of the five cabinet minister considering a second referendum, David Lidington is understood to be among those holding talks both within and without his party on how it might come to pass.

He is likely to face considerable opposition from fellow Conservatives, 117 voted to remove Mrs May from the leadership on Wednesday night.

Former rail minister Jo Johnson has threatened that as many as 100 Tory MPs would back a second referendum if the alternative was a no deal Brexit

Former rail minister Jo Johnson has threatened that as many as 100 Tory MPs would back a second referendum if the alternative was a no deal Brexit

Former rail minister Jo Johnson has threatened that as many as 100 Tory MPs would back a second referendum if the alternative was a no deal Brexit

But Jo Johnson, who resigned as transport minister last month, said there was ‘serious thinking’ by senior figures on what question might appear on the ballot should a second referendum be held.

Saying there had been a shift in mood of late, he acknowledged there was nonetheless no evidence Mrs May has softened her opposition to a public vote.

But, he added: ‘Two thirds of Conservative MPs are absolutely terrified of a no-deal Brexit.

‘If it’s still seriously on the table near March then at least 100 of us will vote for a second referendum. Then she’ll have to do it.’

Oxford University elections expert Stephen Fisher told The Guardian that a second referendum, offering a choice between Brexit on her terms and remaining in the EU, might by Mrs May’s least bad option. 

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