Three Cabinet ministers publicly urge Theresa May to rule out no-deal Brexit
Brexit should be delayed if Parliament does not approve a deal in the coming days, Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke have publicly warned Theresa May for the first time.
Writing in the Daily Mail, the trio signalled that if the European Research Group of Tory eurosceptics does not back Mrs May's deal they will throw their weight behind a plan to extend Article 50 and delay Britain’s exit from the EU.
In their joint article, the Cabinet ministers said: "If there is no breakthrough in the coming week, 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.
"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."
Mrs May next week faces a major cross-party attempt to block a no-deal Brexit.
On Wednesday the Commons will vote on an amendment from senior Labour backbencher Yvette Cooper and former Conservative minister Sir Oliver Letwin which would hand MPs the power to press for an extension to Article 50 if the Prime Minister has not secured backing for a deal by mid-March.
Mr Clark, the Business Secretary, along with Ms Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, and the Justice Secretary, Mr Gauke, praised Mrs May's "extraordinary determination and resilience."
But they made clear that a no-deal Brexit, which remains the default option if MPs do not swing behind Mrs May's EU agreement, would leave Britain "poorer, less secure and potentially splitting up".
"It would be truly remarkable if this was as a consequence of Conservative MPs voting down the deal. We must be the party that promotes business, protects our security and preserves the Union," they added.
"None of this would be achieved by pursuing a No Deal Brexit.
"The Government’s policy is to leave the European Union on March 29 with a deal that protects our economic and security interests. That date is less than five weeks away and time is running out.
"If we cannot achieve a parliamentary breakthrough in the next few days, the country will face a choice. We could crash out on March 29 or we could try to leave with a deal at a later date. Beyond the next few days, there simply will not be time to agree a deal and complete all the necessary legislation before March 29."
But the intervention from the three top ministers earned a stinging rebuke from one Brexiteer Conservative.
Andrew Bridgen told the BBC's Today programme: "What they are actually saying is that they are rejecting collective responsibility of being in government, they are rejecting government policy.
"In that case, they should do the honourable thing and resign from the government immediately."