Deep Brexit divisions within Theresa May’s cabinet have been exposed after senior ministers clashed over how to break the parliamentary deadlock.

Amber Rudd broke ranks on Wednesday by saying a fresh referendum was a “plausible” option if MPs fail to agree a way forward before the EU withdrawal date in March.

However Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, a Brexiteer, hit back at her cabinet colleague, saying a second referendum would be “unacceptable”.

Join Independent Minds

For exclusive articles, events and an advertising-free read for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99 a month

Get the best of The Independent

With an Independent Minds subscription for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99 a month

Get the best of The Independent

Without the ads – for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99 a month

The row comes as the prime minister faces near-certain defeat in a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal next month, which was shelved at the last minute due to fierce opposition from Tory backbenchers.

Ms Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, floated the idea of a Final Say vote on ITV’s Peston, saying: “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.”

She added: “Parliament has to reach a majority on how it’s going to leave the European Union. If it fails to do so, then I can see the argument for taking it back to the people again, much as it would distress many of my colleagues.”

Her intervention was hailed as a “massive moment” by People’s Vote campaigners, with Tory former minister Anna Soubry describing it as “brave and principled”.

Support free-thinking journalism and subscribe to Independent Minds

However Ms Leadsom dismissed Ms Rudd’s comments outright. The Commons leader told the BBC’s Today programme: “It’s not government policy.

“I myself think it would undermine the biggest democratic exercise ever, where we had a clear majority to leave the European Union.

“To have a second referendum would unfortunately be going back to people and telling them they have got it wrong and they needed to try again. I think it would be unacceptable.”

Ms Leadsom confirmed she had been considering plans for a no-deal Brexit, which is the default position if parliament cannot come to some kind of agreement.

She said she was looking at a “managed no-deal”, which some Brexiteers favour, as an “alternative solution” if the prime minister’s deal is voted down.

“A managed no-deal does not necessarily mean there is no withdrawal agreement at all,” Ms Leadsom said.

“This is all speculation, but what I am looking at is trying to find an alternative that, in the event we cannot agree to this deal, that there could be a further deal that looks at a more minimalist approach that allows us to leave with some kind of deal and some kind of implementation period that avoids a cliff edge, that avoids uncertainty for businesses and travellers and so on.”

Ms May was due to meet her Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki for talks in London today, as she desperately seeks further reassurances from EU leaders about the controversial backstop plan before the crunch Commons vote in January.



The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

Sign our petition here

Comments

Share your thoughts and debate the big issues

Learn more
Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines.
  • You may not agree with our views, or other users’, but please respond to them respectfully
  • Swearing, personal abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and other discriminatory or inciteful language is not acceptable
  • Do not impersonate other users or reveal private information about third parties
  • We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts and ban offending users without notification

You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.

  • Newest first
  • Oldest first
  • Most liked
  • Least liked
Loading comments...
Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines.

Community Guidelines

  • You may not agree with our views, or other users’, but please respond to them respectfully
  • Swearing, personal abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and other discriminatory or inciteful language is not acceptable
  • Do not impersonate other users or reveal private information about third parties
  • We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts and ban offending users without notification

You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.

  • Newest first
  • Oldest first
  • Most liked
  • Least liked
Loading comments...