The Justice Secretary, who backed Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, warned it would be “very difficult” for him to stay on the frontbench if the UK quits the EU without a deal in place. His threat came amid growing support among Cabinet ministers for a no-deal departure if Theresa May is unable to win Commons support in her crunch “Brexit deal vote” next month.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is understood to be leading several ministers in championing a so-called “World Trade Brexit” that would see the UK quitting the bloc without paying the proposed £39billion divorce fee and trading with EU countries on the basis of tariffs set by the World Trade Organisation.
In a fresh sign of the division around the Cabinet table, Mr Gauke said such a policy would drive him out of the Government.
He said: “I think making a conscious decision to proceed with no-deal would not be the responsible course of action.”
Asked if he could stay in the Cabinet if the Government pursued a no-deal policy, Mr Gauke said: “I think it would be very difficult for me in those circumstances.
“I am conscious that there is a risk of an accidental no-deal.
“Although Parliament clearly doesn’t want no deal, it’s not clear that there is a majority for a specific course of action to stop no-deal.”
Throwing his support behind Mrs May, he added: “The best way of stopping no-deal is to back the Prime Minister’s deal in my view.
“So I think it would be very difficult and I think if it came down to the Government saying consciously, ‘Well, we’ll just have to do that’, I don’t think there would be a lot of support for it. I would be very surprised if the Prime Minister went down that route.”
Mr Gauke’s threat came amid reports that pro-Brussels Tory MPs are planning to side with Labour in a series of parliamentary ambushes on the Government in the new year.
A cross-party alliance of MPs is understood to be planning a rolling programme of scathing Commons motions and “killer” amendments to legislation once MPs return to Westminster after the Christmas break.
In one early warning shot, former minister Nick Boles and fellow Tory MP Oliver Letwin, who both backed Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, joined a group of Labour MPs in tabling a Commons amendment to the Government’s finance bill earlier this week.
Their move, which is due to be debated on January 8, seeks to prevent the Government using any more taxpayers’ cash for Brexit preparations without the approval of Parliament.
The expected vote on the amendment is likely to be seen as an indicator of the mood in the Commons ahead of the full “meaningful vote” on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal scheduled for the following week.