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Minister vows to quit if Theresa May does not let Tory MPs vote to stop no-deal Brexit

3 min read

A government minister has said he would be prepared to resign or be sacked if Theresa May does not let Tory MPs vote to stop a no-deal Brexit this week.

Public health minister Steve Brine told the BBC's Westminster Hour he would find it "very difficult" to stay in a government that backed leaving the EU without an agreement.

Mrs May faces the prospect of another hefty defeat in the second meaningful vote on her Brexit deal this Tuesday amid little sign that she has gained any concessions from the European Union.

If MPs reject her deal again, a Commons vote on whether or not to leave the EU without a deal will take place.

Mr Brine was asked whether he would be willing to resign or be sacked unless Mrs May allowed Tory MPs a free vote on ruling out no-deal in that event.

He said: "I think a free vote would be very smart... I would find it very difficult, and I would say, actually impossible to be part of a policy that was pursuing actively no deal."

The minister - who has been in his post since the 2017 election - said he was "not fatalistic" about a no-deal and acknowledged that the UK would not "close up shop".

But he warned rebel Brexiteer MPs: "Those of us that are in ministerial office and in government departments - and sit in the Cabinet Office meetings and look into what no withdrawal agreement looks like - take our word for it, [we know] it isn't pretty. And there's no need for us to do it."

Pressed again on whether he would have to quit or be sacked if MPs were not given a free vote, Mr Brine said: "Indeed. Yeah... And it'll be a great shame, because there's lots of good things going on in my department and, you know, I play a tiny weeny role in them."


The stark warning from a serving minister came as a senior Tory MP said it would be "very difficult" for Mrs May to stay on as Prime Minister if her Brexit deal suffers a fresh defeat on Tuesday.

Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told BBC Radio 4: "If the votes go this week in a way which means that the Prime Minister’s policy as she has set out and stuck to rigidly over the course of the last two-and-a-bit a years is taken away, dismantled slowly by Parliament this week, I think it would be very difficult for the Prime Minister to stay in office for very much longer."

And Ms Morgan, who chairs parliament's cross-party Treasury Select committee, said Cabinet ministers may have to step in to tell the Prime Minister her time is up.

The MP warned: "They are going to have to take a role in saying potentially to the Prime Minister, ‘Actually, things have changed significantly  We think you should think about your position Prime Minister'".

The Times reports that Conservative MPs have meanwhile been urging Mrs May to pull Tuesday's meaningful vote in a bid to avoid a three-figure defeat.

"It has been made clear to Downing Street that it would be eminently sensible to avoid that by proposing a motion that the party can support," a senior party source told the paper.

"Whether they listen or not is another matter."

Former Conservative chief whip Andrew Mitchell said: "Anything that avoids what looks like a massive defeat on Tuesday is worth considering."

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