The possibility of another vote has been widely ruled out by Mrs May but this rhetoric from a senior cabinet minister has undermined her and is likely to cause more friction in her divided inner-circle. Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston, Ms Rudd said: “I don’t want a people’s vote, or a referendum in general, but if Parliament absolutely failed to reach a consensus I could see there would be a plausible argument for it.” The former Home Secretary also backed the idea of a indicative vote where MPs could reveal which options they would back if Mrs May’s deal cannot get through, something number 10 also ruled out.
Ms Rudd said: “But I think it is incumbent on MPs to find the centre ground in Parliament and to try to find where the majority is there. Because, quite frankly, I don’t think the majority of people … want to be asked again how to vote.”
She added: “I quite like the idea of indicative votes because it would flush out where people’s majority is, so people who hold on to the idea of one option or another would see there’s no majority for that so they need to move to their next preference.
“We would hopefully be able to find where the compromise and the consensus is for a majority of support.”
Beth Rigby, Sky News Deputy Political Editor said Downing Street will be “furious” with the comments.
She wrote on Twitter: “@AmberRuddHR said it as a backbencher, huge that she is saying it now as a senior cabinet figure. And directly contradicts May’s My Deal or No Deal narrative. No 10 will be furious.”
Meanwhile the prospect of another vote increased after Labour reiterated they would not be forced into backing Mrs May’s deal and would not entertain the idea of walking away with no deal.
Sir Keir Starmer said: “I don’t think for one moment that this House if going to accept the binary choice that the Prime Minister will attempt to put before us.
“A choice between bad and even worse is not a meaningful choice. Nor is leaving the EU on March 29 next year without a deal viable.
“It has never been viable and as every day goes past it becomes less and less viable.”
The shadow Brexit secretary said: “If she stands at that despatch box and says she intends to take the UK out of the EU without a deal, I genuinely believe Parliament, this House, will do everything it can to stop this course of action.”
Pro-EU Tory Anna Soubry praised Ms Rudd’s “brave and principled” comments and said she was “spot on”.
While Labour MP Owen Smith, a supporter of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign, said: “Amber Rudd May be the first Tory Cabinet member to say she’d rather have a people’s vote than allow a catastrophic no deal to unfold, but she won’t be the last.
“This is a massive moment for our campaign.
“These ministers have seen the real assessments of what no deal would look like for Britain and they know we can’t ever afford to go there.
“I just hope they can persuade Mrs May to see sense too.”
Theresa May’s cabinet has already been at loggerheads over its Brexit immigration proposals after senior ministers including chancellor Philip Hammond opposed the £30,000 threshold for migrants.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid also clashed with Mrs May and refused to commit to specific numerical targets as the PM had wanted.
Mr Javid told the Commons “we are building a fair and sustainable immigration system” that works in the “national interest”.