Cabinet Ministers push for ‘soft Brexit’ climbdown and demand PM drops Brexit red lines on EU customs union

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OPEN CABINET warfare erupted as a leading Cabinet Minister demand the PM drop her red lines to a customs union with the EU.

Ahead of a crunch Commons vote on Brexit alternatives today, Justice Secretary David Gauke said No.10 no longer had the luxury to stick to its guns on the best way forward given the “numbers” in Parliament.

PA:Press Association

Cabinet Ministers are pushing Theresa May to settle on a ‘soft’ exit from the EU[/caption]

David Hartley

Theresa May and her husband were spotted with their border collie at Church[/caption]

Theresa May ruled out joining an EU customs union in the 2017 Tory election manifesto – so Britain could strike its own trade deals.

But Mr Gauke said: “Sometimes you have to accept your second or third choice to avoid an outcome you consider to be even worse.

“I think we have to recognise that my party does not have the votes to get its manifesto position through the House of Commons at the moment.”

Almost immediately other ‘soft Brexit’ Cabinet Ministers Amber Rudd and Greg Clark announced a group of 50 Tories had set up a new “Compassionate Conservatism” body to combat a No Deal.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes was separately quoted as saying she would prefer “no Brexit” than crashing out of the EU.

But seething Brexit-backing Cabinet Ministers slammed Mr Gauke – and urged Tory party chiefs to “whip” Tory MPs to vote against anything which contravened the 2017 Manifesto in Westminster today.

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‘DEATH OF THE PARTY’

One told The Sun: “Conservations have been had this weekend. The Cabinet should be voting against a customs union – not abstaining.”

Senior Tories warned the growing split could trigger “the death of the party”.

Others warned that Theresa May’s only remaining options were a “suicidal” General Election – or asking the EU for a long extension to sort out the chaos.

One said: “If she backs a customs union as many as 12 Cabinet Ministers will quit in protest. If she goes the other way – and backs a No Deal – she loses at least five. It’s an absolute mess.”

No.10 yesterday confirmed the PM could bring back her deal for a fourth time in Parliament this week – despite Friday’s 58 vote defeat.

But Tories privately warned it could be too late – given the increasingly likelihood that an alternative Brexit plan could win a majority in today’s second stage of Indicative Votes.

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COMMONS DEADLOCK

Deadlocked MPs are expected to be asked to vote on up to four different Brexit options in today’s second stage of ‘Indicative Votes’ – from a Norway-style Brexit to a second Referendum.

None of eight voted on last week won a majority – but large numbers of Tories abstained.

Nick Boles, one of those orchestrating the Westminster power grab, insisted Theresa May had to agree to accept whatever comes out with majority backing as Government policy.

He told The Sun: “If Parliament is able to back something then the world will have changed utterly. And the Government will need to respect Parliament and work with them.”

Mr Boles and other ‘rebel’ leaders such as Tory Sir Oliver Letwin and Hilary Benn have already seized a third day of Commons business on Wednesday.

Sir Oliver believes this could be used to introduce a short bill to compel Theresa May to endorse today’s winner as her own policy.

Government will need to respect Parliament and work with them


Nick Boles

The Sun on Saturday revealed some in No.10 plan an X-Factor ‘run off’ between the PM’s deal and the ‘winner’ in the hope arch Eurosceptics will finally “see sense” and back Downing Street.

Some 34 voted against Mrs May’s agreement on Friday – including ex-Minister Priti Patel and lead Eurosceptic Steve Baker.

One senior Tory said: “People like Steve Baker and Mark Francois are keeping us in Europe? It’s unbelievable.”

Another said: “Hopefully seeing Parliament vote for a customs union will mean these really do wake up and smell the coffee. This is it.”

A rumoured Cabinet conference call didn’t take place and the Cabinet will next meet on Tuesday after today’s vote.

BURLEY SNUB TO HUNT JOB OFFER

Jeremy Hunt suffered a blow to his No 10 ambitions – after Kay Burley rejected a job offer.

Sources claim the Foreign Secretary wanted the Sky News presenter as his spin doctor.

But Ms Burley replied she was too “busy beating up politicians of all flavours” to consider being their mouthpiece.

SNAP POLL FEAR

A Government spokesman insisted it remained “committed to delivering the Brexit deal – which does not include membership of the Customs Union”.

Labour said it was on “election footing” as it revealed plans to transform post offices in branches of a new nationalised bank.

But deputy leader Tom Watson risked another bitter rift with Jeremy Corbyn by insisting a People’s Vote would be included in any Labour Manifesto for an upcoming Election.

He said: “It seems inconceivable that if there was a general election tomorrow, and we hope there will be, that a People’s Vote won’t be in that manifesto.”

Separately Emily Thornberry, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, went further than before in expressing her own wish to Remain in the EU.

And she added: “In my heart I want to stay.

“I think in our hearts we want to remain. But the difficulty is that we have to square that with democracy, we’re democrats above everything else.”


Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis accused the opposition of “playing politics”.

He stormed: “Labour are pushing for a divisive second referendum which rips up their manifesto pledge to respect the result of the largest democratic exercise in our nation’s history and would take us back to square one.

“On the biggest issues facing our country, Labour are still playing party politics rather than acting in the national interest.”

Reuters

MPs will vote on up to four different options in today’s second stage of Indicative Votes[/caption]

EPA

After three months in the same blue coat, the Prime Minister has opted for a new look[/caption]

Justice Secretary David Gauke suggested Theresa May may have to settle for her second or third choice in regards to Britain’s exit from the EU

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