Cabinet row as minister hits out at Penny Mordaunt's 'unicorn' managed no-deal plan

Posted On: 
18th December 2018

A Cabinet row has erupted after senior ministers lined up to condemn Penny Mordaunt's call for a "managed no-deal" exit from the European Union.

David Gauke leaves Downing Street after today's Cabinet meeting.
Credit: 
PA Images

The International Development Secretary, who campaigned for Vote Leave in the EU referendum, called on Theresa May to begin preparations now for the UK quitting the EU without a formal withdrawall agreement in place.

She said a "managed guidepath" involving a two-year transition period would allow businesses to prepare for life after Brexit if MPs reject the deal the Prime Minister has struck with Brussels.

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Other Cabinet members known to back the idea include Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox and Jeremy Hunt.

But at a tense Cabinet meeting in 10 Downing Street this morning, Justice Secretary David Gauke said: "Managed no-deal is not a viable option. It’s not on offer from the EU and the responsibility of Cabinet ministers is not to propagate unicorns but to slay them."

Chancellor Philip Hammond also told the meeting that a managed no-deal was "not a viable option", a source told PoliticsHome.

Ministers also discussed calls for a series of so-called "indicative votes" in the Commons to test MPs' opinions on a range of alternatives to Theresa May's deal.

Downing Street tonight dismissed reports that the Prime Minister was coming round to that idea as a way of forcing MPs to eventually back her plans.

"There was no consensus on managed no-deal or indicative votes," one minister present at Cabinet said. "The feeling was that we have to do all we can to get the Brexit deal over the line."

Meanwhile, the Cabinet also backed moves to dramatically ramp up the Government's no-deal planning.

An extra £2billion is being made available by the Treasury, while citizens and businesses will be issued with information on what to do in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

One minister said: "The mood was more about putting everything in to trying to get the deal through in the next three weeks, but accepting that we have to plan for no deal.

"The three options were to maintain the current pace, escalate it significantly or don't bother doing anything - and everybody agreed that if we're going to do it, it has to be escalated."