UK ministers defy May, back delaying Brexit if MPs don't approve a deal quickly

Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke.
Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke. Copyright Reuters
By Alice Tidey
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"But too many of our parliamentary colleagues appear complacent about the consequences of leaving the EU without a deal."


Three British ministers vowed on Saturday to defy Prime Minister Theresa May and delay Brexit if lawmakers do not back a deal.

Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke — respectively Secretary of State for Business, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Secretary of State for Justice — told the Daily Mail newspaper that "time is running out."

It comes just days before parliamentarians will once again debate Brexit with May expected to table a motion for Wednesday. They are also expected to vote on a number of amendments, including one from Labour MP Yvette Cooper that seeks to extend Article 50 to avoid a no-deal Brexit should an agreement not be approved by parliament before mid-March.

The three ministers' intervention once more highlights the stark divide within the ruling Conservative Party over the best Brexit strategy to adopt with just five weeks to go until the country is scheduled to exit the EU.

They praise May's "extraordinary determination and resilience" and say "it is time that MPs recognised the need to get a deal."

"But too many of our parliamentary colleagues appear complacent about the consequences of leaving the EU without a deal," they write.

The trio argue that a no-deal Brexit will "severely" damage the economy, weaken national security and put the integrity of the UK "at risk" as it might result in a hard border in Ireland.

"Far from Brexit resulting in a newly independent United Kingdom stepping boldly into the wider world, crashing out on March 29 would see us poorer, less secure and potentially splitting up," they say.

"Our hope is that Parliament recognises that we should leave the EU on March 29 with a deal. However, if there is no breakthrough in the coming weeks, 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 March 29," they go on.

Clark, Rudd and Gauke particularly take aim at the European Research Group (ERG) — a eurosceptic alliance of up to 80 MPs within the Conservative Party — which has backed measures to ensure no-deal remained an option.

"It is time that many of our Conservative parliamentary colleagues in the ERG recognised that Parliament will stop a disastrous No Deal Brexit on March 29. If that happens, they will have no one to blame but themselves for delaying Brexit," they argue.

A Downing Street source told Euronews that "the fact these Ministers hold strong views on avoiding no deal is scarcely a secret."

"The PM is working hard to ensure we get a deal with the EU that allows us to deliver on the result of the referendum. That is where the Cabinet's energy should be focused," the source added.

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