Brexit: Rudd, Clark and Gauke should resign, says Andrew Bridgen

Three cabinet ministers have signalled they could vote to delay withdrawal from EU

Three cabinet ministers who signalled they could vote to delay Britain’s withdrawal from the EU should resign, a Tory Brexiter MP has said.

Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke should step down, said Andrew Bridgen, a member of the hard-Brexit European Research Group (ERG). He said the ministers were rejecting government policy in breach of cabinet collective responsibility.

“What they are actually saying is that they are rejecting collective responsibility of being in government, they are rejecting government policy,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “In that case, they should do the honourable thing and resign from the government immediately.”

He accused Downing Street of orchestrating their actions in an attempt to pressurise Tory Brexiters into backing Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.

“This is partly organised by No 10 – potentially Robbie Gibb, the comms director – to try to bully Brexit-supporting MPs into supporting the withdrawal agreement. I am afraid this is not going to work,” he said.

But the Conservative former minister Nick Boles, who is backing moves to delay Brexit if there is no deal, welcomed the intervention of the three cabinet ministers. “I think it is courageous and it is principled, and I applaud them for doing it,” he told Today.

In a joint newspaper article in the Daily Mail on Saturday, Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, the justice minister, and the business secretary, Greg Clark, said they wanted to ensure the UK does not crash out of the EU without a deal on 29 March. They said they were prepared to defy the prime minister and join those MPs pushing for an extension to article 50 if there is no significant progress next week.

The ministers said a no-deal Brexit would wreck the country’s economy and put security at risk. “If there is no breakthrough in the coming week, the balance of opinion in parliament is clear – that it would be better to seek to extend article 50 and delay our date of departure rather than crash out of the European Union on 29 March,” they added.

“It is time that many of our Conservative parliamentary colleagues in the ERG recognised that parliament will stop a disastrous no-deal Brexit on 29 March. If that happens, they will have no one to blame but themselves for delaying Brexit.”

It comes after the Guardian revealed cabinet ministers will make it clear they believe May should step down after the local elections in May and allow a new leader to take charge of the next phase of the Brexit negotiations.

Senior figures in government have suggested they want the prime minister to leave shortly after the first phase of the Brexit negotiations finishes, or risk being defeated in a vote of no confidence at the end of the year.

May wants to stay in place for long enough after Brexit to secure a political legacy beyond the fraught negotiations. But some ministers believe she should announce the timeline for her departure “on a high” after the local election results, paving the way for a Conservative leadership contest over the summer.

Brexiters in the cabinet are keen to see a new leader take over for the next stage of the negotiations with the EU, which May has already pledged will involve more active involvement for politicians rather than advisers.

The hardening mood among cabinet ministers on the timeline for her departure will place further pressure on May before a critical week of Brexit talks and votes amid a febrile climate in Westminster.

She will fly to an EU-Middle East summit on Sunday, where she will hold bilateral meetings with senior figures including the European council president, Donald Tusk, as part of attempts to secure “legally binding” changes to the backstop.

Downing Street said the prime minister had spoken to 26 of the EU’s 27 leaders in the past fortnight, as she tries to convince them to make changes she can sell to MPs.

“She will have a period of engagement again, on Sunday and Monday, with EU leaders,” a spokesman said. “She has said it is not easy.”

The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, and the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox – whose legal advice on the backstop is critical to convincing Brexiters to support the deal – will return to Brussels on Monday, as technical talks between the two sides continue.


Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

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