Michael Gove tells Cabinet it would be better to have 'unpalatable' deal with Labour than no Brexit

Posted On: 
1st May 2019

Michael Gove has told Cabinet ministers that they would be better to accept an "unpalatable" Brexit deal with Labour than risk never leaving the European Union at all.

The Environment Secretary was a leading campaigner for Brexit in 2016.
Credit: 
PA

In a boost for ongoing cross-party talks, the Environment Secretary is said to have told Cabinet colleagues this week that the Conservatives might need to give ground to the opposition to reach an agreement.

According to The Telegraph, Mr Gove - who campaigned for Brexit in 2016 - warned that an "unpalatable" deal with the opposition would be better than the "disastrous" outcome of Brexit being shelved altogether.

Theresa May sets seven-day deadline for Brexit deal with Labour

Striking Brexit deal with Labour could alienate Tory MPs, Jeremy Hunt warns

Labour split as frontbencher suggests party could back Brexit deal without second referendum

Meanwhile chief whip Julian Smith reportedly told ministers that it was "time to get real", and presented them with analysis of the risks of holding another vote on Theresa May's EU deal without Labour backing.

Cabinet ministers including Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom  have been pushing the Prime Minister to present MPs with the Withdrawal Agreement Bill - which would ratify her Brexit deal - and dare them to vote it down.

But, according to the Daily Mail, Mr Smith warned: "It's a customs union or a second referendum, and we are not having a second referendum."

One Cabinet minister described the meeting as "pitch rolling for a customs union" - Labour's central demand in ongoing talks with the Government.

HuffPost UK meanwhile reports that Mrs May overruled demands in Tuesday's Cabinet meeting to speed up the introduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill by separating out the controversial Northern Ireland backstop which has enraged Tory MPs and helped lead to three heavy defeats for the Prime Minister's Brexit deal.

But a Tory source warned: "If we don’t introduce the WAB we can’t say we’ve tried everything before the EU elections."

Labour MP Virendra Sharma, speaking on behalf of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign, meanwhile told HuffPost: "Number 10 clearly know that bringing back their doomed deal will lead to nothing but another humiliating defeat.

“But the cabinet Leavers seem to be a bit more naïve. The broken up withdrawal agreement was rejected only a few weeks ago, and stripping out the backstop is a request that has repeatedly caused a breakdown in talks with the EU and further time-wasting in parliament."

The Prime Minister on Tuesday set a seven-day deadline for talks with Labour to reach a conclusion - although Labour insiders said they had not been informed of the deadline.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said the discussions had been "serious and constructive".

"Further talks will now be scheduled in order to bring the process toward a conclusion," he said.