The Prime Minister’s Cabinet is united only in dismissing the Brexit deal thrashed out by Mrs May and the EU27 on November 25. But a rift has opened over what the next step should be, with ministers fractured into three factions. Arch-Remained Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is one of the most prominent members of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet who has stepped up discussions on whether or not to put the deal back to the people.
If all the other options are exhausted, Mr Hammond is believed to be ready to reluctantly accept another Brexit vote, The Times reports.
On his side there are Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, David Lidington, the minister for the Cabinet Office, David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, and Greg Clarke, the Business Secretary.
Mrs May continues to oppose to this scenario, but these ministers, who backed her during the vote of confidence on Wednesday evening, are nevertheless doing “serious thinking” about how to organise the second Brexit vote.
This plan is opposed by two other groups.
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Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, and Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, dismissed the possibility of going back to the polling station and are equally adverse to a no deal Brexit.
However, they want to see the UK leaving the European Union, which opens them to a softer Brexit, such as a Norway-style deal.
But chances of this faction to win are rather slim, with both Mrs May and a senior Norwegian MP rejecting a Norway-style agreement.
The third faction wants Mrs May to take the UK out of the bloc in March 2019, even if it means leaping out of the union without an agreement.
Among the supporters of this scenario there are Andrea Leadson, leader of the Commons, Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary.
According to The Times, these ministers have indicated Mrs May should change or remove the Irish backstop, the most contested part of the Prime Minister’s deal which could cost Britain remaining “indefinitely” within the EU as a rule-taker, as confirmed by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox earlier this month during a Q&A session in Parliament, and tell the EU she is ready to walk away without an agreement.
One Cabinet minister said schools funding could be hit as budgets are reprioritised for no deal planning, according to the newspaper.
This comes after Mrs May’s second trip to Brussels in a week, in a desperate bid to receive concessions from European leaders to help her selling her Brexit deal to the Commons.
But at a dinner without the Prime Minister, the EU27 deleted favourable clauses in the conclusions of the summit held on December 13 and 14 that would have seen the bloc committed to providing “a further assurance” the backstop would not “trap” the UK in a legally binding customs union.
Mrs May decided to pull the meaningful vote scheduled for December 11 as it was clear the Government would have lost.
This sparked outrage among MPs and fears Brexit may be delayed.
David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, has become the first minister to call for Britain to delay the UK exiting the union beyond March 29, as he believes “we are not going to get a deal over the line in time,” according to a source close to him.