WATCH: Tory minister breaks ranks to suggest Article 50 could be extended to avoid no-deal Brexit
A Tory minister has suggested that Brexit may have to be delayed if Parliament cannot agree on a deal before the 29 March deadline.
Digital Minister Margot James said Article 50 could be extended to avoid a no deal exit if MPs fail to back the Prime Minister’s plan in the coming weeks.
Speaking on the BBC’s Politics Live programme, she urged colleagues to get behind Mrs May’s deal, but said: “If that proves to be impossible then I think we have very little time left, but we might have to extend Article 50.
She added: “But I think it’s very unlikely that Parliament will actually stare down the barrel of that particular gun. And I think it’s far more likely that Parliament will get behind the deal.”
The Prime Minister has previously rejected calls to extend the Brexit process, saying in November last year that it would mean reopening talks with Brussels.
She told a Commons committee: “What is clear is that any extension to Article 50, anything like that, reopens the negotiations, reopens the deal and at that point the deal could go, frankly, in any direction.”
Responding to Ms James's comments, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "The PM has always said we will be leaving the EU on March 29th this year and we we won't be extending Article 50."
It comes after 200 MPs from across the political divide demanded the Government rules out plunging over the “cliff-edge” of a no-deal Brexit.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, some 209 figures from both the Leave and Remain camps, as well as the different political parties, warned that a disorderly departure from the EU could cost jobs.
Mrs May has been begging MPs to back the deal she clinched with Brussels, but dozens of her backbenchers and the DUP - whose 10 MPs prop up her minority government - have insisted they still plan to vote against it when it comes back to the Commons next week.