Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has called for a free vote on plans for extending Article 50
Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor
January 22 2019, 12:01am. The Times.
Amber Rudd warns No 10 to give Tories free vote on a plan to stop a no-deal Brexit
Up to 40 members of the government will resign next week if Conservative MPs are banned from voting for a plan to stop a no-deal Brexit, No 10 has been told.
Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has demanded that all Tory MPs are allowed a free vote on plans that would clear the path for extending Article 50 — the mechanism by which Britain leaves the European Union.
Richard Harrington, the business minister, confirmed yesterday that he would resign if the government pursued a no-deal Brexit.
Margot James, the culture minister, and Tobias Ellwood, the defence minister, were among those said to be considering their positions. Mr Ellwood used Twitter yesterday to call for an extension to Article 50.
Ms Rudd’s intervention suggests that her position could be in doubt if she is barred from voting for the amendment, although her office refused to say whether she would regard it as a resignation issue. Those who are considering resigning include cabinet ministers, junior ministers and ministerial aides.
David Gauke, the justice secretary, who said last month that it would be “very difficult” to remain in the government if it pursued a no-deal Brexit, is standing by Theresa May and is not looking at standing down.
One source, who backs the plan to block no-deal, said: “For too long parliamentarians have shouted from the peanut gallery about what they won’t support. Now is the time for them to get on the stage and show what they would support. If done properly this could help the prime minister to go to Brussels in a stronger position.”
Mrs May indicated in the Commons yesterday that she was likely to reject the request, leading to a stand-off within the party. The prime minister told parliament that she could not take a no-deal Brexit off the table because an approved alternative was yet to emerge, and that the EU would be unlikely to postpone Britain’s exit date — determined by the Article 50 withdrawal notice — without an exit plan.
Julian Smith, the chief whip, will decide at the end of the week whether to give MPs a free vote.