EXCL Health minister suggests he would quit government to vote against no-deal Brexit
A government minister has suggested he will quit in order to vote against a no-deal Brexit.
Stephen Hammond said he was clear where his "responsibilities lie" and argued MPs have a "moral duty" to do right by their constituents and the country.
In an interview with The House magazine, the Wimbledon MP also said that “many” of his Tory colleagues would rebel in order vote to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement.
A bid by former Labour frontbencher Yvette Cooper and Conservative MP Nick Boles to delay Brexit by up to nine months in order to give more time for a deal to be agreed was defeated in the Commons last week.
But Mr Hammond said he would vote for a similar move in the future, even if that meant quitting his job as a junior health minister.
"The Prime Minister made the commitment that by 13 February, if she has not secured a deal or a new revised deal has been voted down on 14 February, there will be a chance for the House of Commons to have a vote on what happens next,” he told The House.
"A lot of my colleagues listened very carefully to what the Prime Minister said and made the decision that given the expressed will of the House of Commons… that the Prime Minister should rightly have the chance to see if there is a deal that can be achieved."
He added: "I’m hopeful that the Government will be able to go to Brussels (and) negotiate a mutually beneficial Withdrawal Agreement and the House of Commons will pass it.
"But the opportunity to ensure that no deal doesn’t happen by mistake and the opportunity to block that is there in [a week’s] time. I have no doubt that many of my colleagues and I will take that opportunity if that appears to be the eventuality."
When asked if supporting such an amendment would have to be a resignation issue, he replied: “We will all have to look into our conscience at that stage. But I don’t think anyone can doubt my principles and what my view would be if that is the last opportunity.
"I’m pretty clear where my responsibilities lie, much as I love this job, much as I think the NHS is a wonderful, wonderful institution… I’m also very clear that as Members of Parliament we have a moral duty to our country and our constituencies. If you look at my record over the last year, no one can question my moral view on that."
Describing no deal as a “calamitous outcome”, Mr Hammond, who joined the Department of Health in November, explained: "I’ve been very clear all along; I voted Remain, I would have preferred us to remain, but I accept the result of the referendum. In my opinion, my role has been both outside and now inside government to argue the case that protects the livelihoods of my constituents and our country.
"We have been a member of the European Union for the last 45 years. We need to remain closely aligned economically and diplomatically, in my opinion. Therefore, I’ve always argued for what is commonly termed as a soft Brexit. I still believe that no deal would be a catastrophe for this country."