'Embrace no deal,' Cabinet ministers urge Theresa May after third Brexit defeat
Ministers are pushing Theresa May to pursue a no-deal exit from the EU after her withdrawal agreement was crushed by MPs for a third time.
A delegation of ministers headed to Downing Street after the defeat to urge the prime minister to reject a softer Brexit, according to Sky News’ Faisal Islam.
“It's time to be bold, we need to embrace no deal,” one Cabinet minister meanwhile told the Daily Telegraph.
"The Remainers clearly want a customs union as an alternative but there isn't a majority for that in the party - it would destroy the party,” the minister said, calling for a Cabinet vote to decide the government’s position as David Cameron did before the 2016 referendum.
Downing Street is now reportedly drawing up a last-ditch attempt to pass the deal in a “run-off” vote, which would see MPs choose between it and the most popular “soft Brexit” alternative.
Wednesday’s indicative votes saw no one alternative achieve a majority, although a motion on pursuing a customs union lost by just six.
Sky News cited Number 10 sources suggesting Mrs May has not given up hope of securing a Commons victory for her vote, pointing to the significantly smaller scale of the defeat than in the first two votes.
The PM’s deal was voted down by 344 votes to 286 on the day that Britain was originally scheduled to leave the EU.
A ministerial conference call scheduled on Sunday and a Cabinet meeting on Monday morning will offer ministers their next chance to demand Mrs May offers a free vote, according to the Telegraph.
It is understood that Gavin Barwell, her chief of staff, has initial discretion over whether to permit a free vote.
According to the Telegraph, Mr Barwell was accused of overruling whips to tell pro-Remain ministers they could abstain on the Commons vote on a no-deal Brexit without Theresa May’s knowledge. The vote on March 13 ruled out leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement.
Downing Street has denied the claims.
If plans for a “run-off vote” fail, the government is believed to be likely to request a longer delay on Brexit which would see the UK participating in European parliament elections in May.