Theresa May has told her warring ministers she will oppose a Brexit referendum ‘in all circumstances’ during a five-hour ‘mother of all Cabinet meetings’ to discuss the EU crisis, it was revealed today.
Hours after MPs again failed to decide upon a Brexit alternative and a top civil servant’s doomsday warning about No Deal last night, ministers will debate the way ahead with just ten days until Britain leaves the EU on April 12.
The Cabinet is bitterly divided between Remainers who favour a soft exit from the EU if May cannot get her deal through, and Brexiteers who want to leave without a deal.
They must decide on one option as MPs continue their efforts to force through a soft Brexit this week – the next indicative votes are set to be held on Wednesday, setting up a run-off vote between soft Brexit and May’s deal on Thursday.
Speculation had been mounting that she would call a snap general election if she failed to get her deal through this week, but Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to warn that the Tory party lacks the funds to fight an election and should call a second referendum instead.
The latest poll also puts Corbyn five points ahead, and observers warn that the Tories would lose heavily.
Ministers will be shown the gloomy polling data and Mr Hammond will urge them to ‘compromise’ because ‘party and country cannot afford an election’.
Mrs May faces a possible Cabinet walkout with up to 15 ministers including Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, Liz Truss and Michael Gove now calling on her to push for No Deal if she cannot get her own deal through Parliament.
But ten other ministers including Mr Hammond, Amber Rudd and Mrs May’s deputy David Lidington are demanding she agrees to add a customs union to her EU divorce if MPs won’t back it.
With the Tories in danger of splitting apart the Chancellor will suggest they put their Brexit deal ‘back to the people in a referendum’, according to The Times.
The Mail yesterday saw leaked extracts of a bombshell letter from Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill warning ministers how disastrous No Deal could be. It warned the Cabinet that No Deal would make Britain ‘less safe’, lead to a recession, a hike in food prices and even risk the break-up of the kingdom.
But Mr Hammond has been blasted by Brexiteers with ERG member Mark Francois accusing him of being ‘utterly in cahoots’ with remainer cabinet members ‘to stop us leaving the European Union’. He said: ‘If you’re listening, Mr Hammond, my fraternal message to you is: ‘Up yours!’.