Monday 18 February 2019

British cabinet at war over moves to take no-deal Brexit off the table

Amber Rudd has warned of resignations. Picture: PA
Amber Rudd has warned of resignations. Picture: PA

Steven Swinford

British Cabinet ministers rounded on Amber Rudd and other Remainers over plans to stop a no-deal Brexit as Theresa May said the UK must retain the option of leaving without an agreement.

During a stormy cabinet meeting yesterday, five ministers led by Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, warned of the risk of giving Tory MPs a free vote on plans that would clear the path to extending Article 50.

While ministers did not name Ms Rudd and "no one went for her outright", one source said it was "painfully clear" she was the target of their "ire". Ms Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has warned that up to 40 members of the Government will resign next week so they can vote to block no-deal.

She wants to be allowed to vote on a backbench amendment tabled by Yvette Cooper, a Labour MP, that would require the government to request Article 50 is extended if no deal can be reached.

It is understood seven other cabinet ministers want a free vote.

However Downing Street yesterday indicated that ministers will be denied a free vote over the Cooper amendment and it is likely to be whipped.

During cabinet, Mr Hunt said that colleagues attempting to take no-deal off the table were being "unhelpful" and weakened Britain's negotiating position.

He said a Commons vote in favour of putting a hard time limit on the customs backstop was the only way of persuading Brussels that it had to give ground.

Meanwhile, British ferry and shipping freight operator P&O will shift the registration of its UK vessels to Cyprus ahead of Britain's departure from the European Union, in part to keep its tax arrangements in the bloc, the company said.

P&O currently has six UK-registered ships operating on the English Channel route to France, although it announced last month it was moving two of those to the Cyprus registry and one has already been transferred.

All commercial ships have to be registered, or flagged, with a country partly to comply with safety and environmental regulations. The move could complicate any attempts by the UK government to secure extra space on ships to help cope with disruption to trade if it fails to secure a negotiated departure from the EU.

And loss-making carmaker Bentley is on track to be profitable this year but a worst-case no-deal Brexit puts that at "fundamental risk", its boss said, adding the chance of Britain leaving the EU on March 29 with a deal now seemed "fairly low."

Also yesterday, James Dyson, the billionaire Brexit supporter who revolutionised vacuum cleaners, announced he is moving his head office to Singapore from Britain to be closer to his company's fastest-growing markets.

Mr Dyson's company said the move to Singapore, where it will build its new electric car, was not driven by Britain's looming departure from the European Union.

Irish Independent

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