Majority of Cabinet 'believes Theresa May's Brexit deal is dead'
The majority of the Cabinet has reportedly declared Theresa May’s Brexit deal dead - but top ministers are divided on how to move forward.
According to The Times, most of the Cabinet have conceded that the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal has almost no chance of making it through Parliament.
Ministers are also said to believe that a parliamentary vote on the Mrs May's Brexit withdrawal agreement should happen as soon as possible.
Labour has demanded it takes place next week, but Number 10 has said it will not happen until the new year.
But The Times says Cabinet minister remain divided on what the next steps should be when Mrs May's deal is rejected by MPs.
One group of Cabinet ministers - consisting of Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Chancellor Phillip Hammond, de-facto Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington, Justice Secretary David Gauke, and Business Secretary Greg Clark - is said to be consdering a push for a second referendum.
Ms Rudd today used a column in the Daily Mail to warn against the "siren voice" pushing for a that a no-deal Brexit, and saying an exit without a deal “mustn’t be allowed to happen when we have the power to prevent it.”
Another Cabinet faction comprised of Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Sajid Javid is reportedly strongly opposed to a second public vote.
House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt are meanwhile thought to be more open to the prospect of leaving the EU without a deal and are continuing to press for changes to - or a scrapping of - the deal's proposed Northern Irish backstop.
EU leaders yesterday rejected Mrs May's attempts to secure "legally binding" on how to end the back-up plan, which seeks to avoid fresh checks at the Northern Ireland border.
Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Mr Hunt reiterated concerns that the UK could be stuck indefinitely in a customs union with the EU via the backstop, but noted that “the EU themselves have said this backstop must be temporary"
And he said the "only way" to honour the Brexit referendum result was for the Commons to pass "a version” of Mrs May’s deal.
The Foreign Secretary added: “A no-deal scenario would be very damaging for the EU as it would present challenges for us.”
Scottish Secretary David Mundell has meanwhile become the first Cabinet minister to back an extension to Article 50, according to the Times.
A source close to Mr Mundell is quoted as saying that it would be an “enormous waste of money and time to prepare to leave on March 29” because Mrs May is "not going to get a deal over the line in time".
Reports on the Cabinet division came as two senior Tories urged the Prime Minister to work with the opposition to overcome the Brexit deadlock.
Treasury Select Committee Chair Nicky Morgan told the Independent that “cross-party support and proper discussions” were the way forward. Former minister Nick Boles told the same outlet that Mrs May “must open cross-party discussions” on an alternative plan.