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Cabinet minister David Gauke warns Theresa May not to ‘ignore Parliament’ if MPs vote for softer Brexit

3 min read

It would not be “sustainable” for Theresa May to “ignore” Parliament if it votes in favour of a softer Brexit and backs a customs union with the European Union, Cabinet minister David Gauke has declared.

The Justice Secretary urged the Prime Minister to look “very closely” at any proposals for a softer Brexit put forward by MPs after they rejected her EU deal three times.

But his intervention risks the wrath of Cabinet Brexiteers, who have already warned the Prime Minister against breaching the 2017 Conservative manifesto pledge to quit the customs union.

MPs will on Monday hold a fresh round of so-called ‘indicative votes’ after last week failing to agree on a way forward.

Although no one option won a majority in last week’s vote, a proposal for a permanent customs union with the EU garnered the most support of any plan put before MPs.

Mr Gauke told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that Mrs May would “have to consider very carefully the will of Parliament” if MPs opted for a softer form Brexit.

He said: “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 say, well, we'll ignore parliament's position and therefore leave without a deal.

“I don't think that is a sustainable position for the government to take."

The Justice Secretary - who has previously made clear that he would be prepared to quit the Government if it opted to leave the EU without a deal - said he would “rather leave the customs union”.

But he urged his Tory colleagues to recognise that the Prime Minister may have to ditch her long-standing red line in order to ensure Brexit happens.

“I think we also have to recognise that, you know, my party does not have the votes to get its manifesto position through the House of Commons at the moment,” he said.

“I think the Prime Minister's deal does reflect the manifesto position. But we... have been defeated three times.

“So we do then need to come back and use our judgement as to what is the best way forward, consider what the options are.

"And I do think we're in an environment where it's not about just going for your first choice.

“Sometimes you do have to accept your second or third choice in order to avoid an outcome that you consider to be even worse.”


The Justice Secretary’s comments come amid reports that 10 Brexiteer Cabinet ministers have put their names to a letter urging Mrs May not to compromise on her pledge to quit the customs union, which scraps customs checks and tariffs on good traded within the EU.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Penny Mordaunt and Jeremy Hunt are among those who have put their name to the letter, signed by 170 Tory MPs and organised by Commons leader Andrea Leadsom.

The missive also warns Mrs May against delaying Brexit beyond 22 May or taking part in fresh European elections.

A string of Brexiteer Cabinet ministers are also said to be prepared to quit the Government if Mrs May opts for a customs union.

According to The Sunday Times, the top ministers used an emergency conference call this weekend to plan a mass walkout if Mrs May backs a customs union or tries to get the UK to take part in European elections in May.

One Cabinet minister told the paper: "We have got to stick by our manifesto commitment not to join a customs union. It would be deeply damaging to hold EU elections. If they are going to happen, Labour MPs will have to vote for them."


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