It seems that a majority of cabinet ministers could now back a no-deal Brexit over a long delay and a customs union, with former remainers such as the Treasury chief secretary, Liz Truss, and the home secretary, Sajid Javid, now among the voices calling on Theresa May to seek this option.

Ten cabinet ministers have signed a letter coordinated by Chris Heaton-Harris, the Brexit minister in charge of no-deal planning, urging the prime minister to leave without a deal. Here’s how the cabinet splits in favour of no deal versus a softer Brexit compromise – and those who could go either way.

Ministers marked with an asterisk are those believed to be seeking to succeed May, a factor to consider in their positioning.

Could favour no deal

Sajid Javid*

As a born-again leaver (not to mention an eager would-be successor to May), the home secretary this week came out firmly against a customs union, tweeting that while it might seem a comfort blanket it was in fact “more of a straitjacket”. Yet it remains unclear whether he would, instead, openly support no deal, despite reports he is now in this camp.

Jeremy Hunt*

The foreign secretary has been bullish in public about Britain’s ability to withstand a no-deal exit but has stopped short of fully endorsing such an outcome, though he is known to be deeply opposed to the UK joining a customs union.

Stephen Barclay*

Yet another vehement leaver brought in to run the Brexit department, Barclay has been a loyal advocate of May’s plan, and told MPs on Monday night that with parliament set against no deal it was the only viable option. But it is worth remembering that he voted against extending the Brexit deadline – even after making the government case for doing so in the Commons.

Gavin Williamson*

Another minister whose views are perhaps best viewed through the prism of his political ambitions. The defence secretary is reported as being among cabinet members who would choose no deal over a customs union, and again he voted against extending article 50.

Liam Fox

A Brexiter before the term was invented, Fox is, as you would expect, in the cabinet camp that favours no deal over a softer departure. That said, he is something of a pragmatist among cabinet leavers, having stayed to argue his case while others resigned.

Penny Mordaunt*

An enthusiastic Brexiter, Mordaunt has said publicly that voters would prefer no deal and that a customs union “wouldn’t fly with the public”. And she has previously advocated a “managed no deal”, which would see the UK leave without an agreement in place.

Chris Grayling

A long-time Brexiter, the transport secretary would be expected to favour no deal over a softer option. But he is very loyal to May, not least as she has stuck by him amid a series of departmental disasters, and that cannot be discounted as a factor.

Liz Truss* (attends cabinet)

A contributor to the bible for small-state Tories, Britannia Unchained, Truss has long been more relaxed about no deal than many of her cabinet colleagues, believing it could usher in radical reforms she believes would kickstart the economy.

Andrea Leadsom* (attends cabinet)

Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, is robustly opposed to a softer Brexit deal, and would prefer the government go for no deal. In the Commons in recent days she has been stressing the importance of abiding by the Tories’ 2017 general election manifesto, which ruled out customs union membership.

Could favour a customs union

David Lidington

A senior cabinet remainer who does not like no deal: last week he told business leaders this was not government policy and would cause disruption and threaten the integrity of the UK. But Lidington is also a pragmatist, and loyal to the prime minister.

Philip Hammond

The cabinet minister the leavers love to hate. As chancellor, his primary cabinet concern is the welfare of the economy, and he has repeatedly warned against the consequences of no deal. He might not be central to plotting for a softer Brexit, but don’t be surprised if he happily accepted one.

David Gauke

Gauke, a key member of the “Gaukward squad” of ministers who would prefer to see a soft Brexit compromise, has suggested he could resign if May decides to pursue no deal.

Matt Hancock*

A minister who has somewhat kept his head down amid the current Brexit debate, Hancock is seen as more on the remain side of the cabinet. As health secretary, he is at the centre of emergency planning for the possibility of no deal and has said he does not believe it will happen.

Greg Clark

Another central member of the supposed customs union squad, the business secretary was among the trio of ministers who openly said they would defy Theresa May to seek a delay to Brexit rather than risk no deal.

Amber Rudd*

Another leading remain-minded minister, the work and pensions secretary was among the cabinet members who publicly urged May to extend the departure deadline, and would be expect to resign rather than take part in an open policy of no deal.

Damian Hinds

The education secretary has also suggested he is wary of no deal, telling the BBC on Tuesday it was “not an optimal outcome”.

David Mundell

One of the most remain-minded members of the cabinet, the Scotland secretary is a paid-up member of the anti-no-deal camp and would be among those expected to quit if no deal became the desired option.


Michael Gove*

A leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign, Gove is known to have considerable doubts about May’s deal – turning down the job of Brexit secretary last year when she refused to reconsider the backstop – but he has reportedly told Tory MPs he would now be willing to consider a softer deal rather than risk losing Brexit altogether.

James Brokenshire

The position of the communities secretary remains unclear. He has not been at the centre of any public debates on Brexit, even while his role involves pushing local authorities to prepare for a no-deal departure. He has been named as in the camp favouring this option over a customs union.

Karen Bradley

Officially a remainer, Bradley has stayed relatively under the radar in terms of Brexit arguments. As Northern Ireland secretary she would be expected to be more mindful than most of the risks of no deal, but time will tell.


Peter Walker, Jessica Elgot and Heather Stewart

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Where do Theresa May's ministers stand on Brexit?
From loyalists to Brexit ultras, the cabinet can be grouped into at least six key factions

Pippa Crerar Deputy political editor

12, Nov, 2018 @6:27 PM

Article image
At least 10 cabinet ministers considering prime ministerial bids
Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove among the Tories who could try to succeed Theresa May

Rowena Mason, Heather Stewart , Rajeev Syal and Jessica Elgot

28, Mar, 2019 @7:59 PM

Article image
Leadsom promoted and Gove sacked as Theresa May overhauls cabinet
New prime minister elevates her one-time leadership rival but axes the justice, education and culture secretaries

Peter Walker Political correspondent

14, Jul, 2016 @5:45 PM

Article image
Who's who in the divided cabinet Brexit subcommittee?
The 11 ministers will meet twice in the next two days to discuss the thorniest Brexit issues

Peter Walker Political correspondent

07, Feb, 2018 @12:55 PM

Article image
Who will be in Theresa May's cabinet?
The new PM’s first job when taking office will be to appoint a team of ministers that can unite the Tory party and the country

Rowena Mason Political correspondent

11, Jul, 2016 @5:10 PM

Article image
Who's up and who's down? The 10 Tories hoping to replace May | Jessica Elgot and Peter Walker
Stock of five leadership hopefuls rises while dream begins to fade for another five

Jessica Elgot and Peter Walker

10, Apr, 2019 @6:37 PM

Article image
Brexit deal: five ministers lobby May to renegotiate draft text
Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove and Liam Fox among Eurosceptics seeking changes

Aamna Mohdin and Heather Stewart

17, Nov, 2018 @7:04 PM

Article image
Where May's ministers stand on customs union concessions
Some ministers are backing more flexibility in Brexit talks but others are opposed

Jessica Elgot

17, Jan, 2019 @5:58 PM

Article image
Theresa May remains opposed to any form of Brexit referendum
As senior Labour MPs say a public vote is essential, top Tories confirm their opposition

Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

13, May, 2019 @11:58 AM

Article image
Jacob Rees-Mogg and his Brexiters increasingly look like a busted flush
An inability to offer an alternative to May’s Chequers plan – or to topple her – has left the ERG weakened

Pippa Crerar Deputy political editor

12, Sep, 2018 @7:16 PM