Cabinet minister hints that he could quit if Theresa May backs no-deal Brexit
A senior member of Theresa May's frontbench has said he would find it "very difficult" to stay in the Cabinet if the Government ended up backing a no-deal Brexit.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said that "would not be the responsible course of action" and said there would not be a lot of support for it.
Instead, he told the BBC's 'Political Thinking With Nick Robinson' podcast that MPs should back the Prime Minister's Brexit deal when it comes before the Commons next month.
At a Cabinet meeting earlier this week, Mr Gauke rounded on those colleagues, including Andrea Leadsom and Penny Mordaunt, who have talked up the prospects of a so-called "managed no-deal".
He told them: "Managed no-deal is not a viable option. It’s not on offer from the EU and the responsibility of Cabinet ministers is not to propagate unicorns but to slay them."
Speaking to Nick Robinson's podcast, he went further by becoming the first Cabinet minister to suggest he would resign if it became official government policy.
He said: "I think making a conscious decision to proceed with no deal would not be the responsible course of action."
Asked if he could stay in Cabinet, he said: "I think it would be very difficult for me in those circumstances. I am conscious that there is a risk of an accidental no deal… Although Parliament clearly doesn’t want no deal, it’s not clear that there is a majority for a specific course of action to stop no deal.
"The best way of stopping no deal is to back the Prime Minister’s deal in my view. So I think it would be very difficult and I think if it came down to the Government saying consciously ‘well we’ll just have to do that’, I don’t think there would be a lot of support for it. I would be very surprised if the Prime Minister went down that route."
Commons leader Ms Leadsom yesterday told the Today programme that the UK had nothing to fear from a no deal Brexit.
She said: "A managed no-deal where we collaborate with the European Union 27 friends and neighbours, in whose interests it is in as well that we don’t leave without a deal in March, then a managed no-deal where we accept that we have not been able to get a properly scheduled withdrawal agreement through the UK parliament would be an alternative solution that the European Union, in my opinion, might well find is also in their interests."
But that earned a rebuke from the Prime Minister's spokesman, who said: "(Managed no deal) is not something which is available. The EU has been very clear that there is no withdrawal agreement available which does not include a backstop. What the PM is focused on is getting the assurances required by the House of Commons on the backstop. The best mitigation against no deal is passing the Prime Minister’s deal."
Meanwhile, a cross-party group of MPs have tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill which aims to ensure a no-deal Brexit cannot happen.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper is leading the move, which also has the backing of the likes of Nicky Morgan, Hilary Benn and Nick Boles.
Ms Cooper said the risks to the UK’s economy and security were "far too high and it would be irresponsible to allow it to happen".