Brexit news latest: 12 ministers threaten mass walkout to stop rebel David Gauke being forced from Cabinet

Up to a dozen ministers threatened a mass walkout from Theresa May’s government to save one Cabinet minister being forced to walk the plank, it has emerged.

The mutiny happened when chief whip Julian Smith asked Justice Secretary David Gauke to fall on his sword for missing a vote. He was one of four Cabinet members who did not vote in a Commons division on ruling out a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday night.

His abstention, along with Cabinet colleagues Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Mundell, came after a day of confusion over whether a free vote would be allowed.

Other ministers who did not vote included business minister Claire Perry, Solicitor General Robert Buckland, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, defence minister Tobias Ellwood, health minister Stephen  Hammond, business minister Richard Harrington, and culture minister Margot James.

Brexit: What happens next?

Next morning there was uproar among members of the European Research Group who demanded ministers be fired and complained Mrs May had lost her authority.

Mr Smith then contacted Mr Gauke and Mr Harrington and asked both to resign.  

Mr Gauke said he was willing to go but repeated it could trigger other resignations. Soundings among ministers then suggested between eight and a dozen would have quit.

The fiasco happened after Mrs May was forced to grant a free vote on a Government motion to stop Britain crashing out on March 29 while leaving no-deal on the table for any other date.

MPs vote to delay Brexit beyond March 29

It was amended by MPs to rule out no-deal at any time, prompting Mrs May to cancel that free vote at the last minute. One minister was allegedly given the all-clear to abstain by a whip who advised him to “go down the pub”, while others who did not vote blamed  confusion.

There was another fiasco last night when Mrs May granted another free vote and watched half of Tory MPs vote against a motion tabled by her to postpone Brexit. Mr Smith abstained, and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay voted against despite speaking in favour.

In Cabinet yesterday, Mrs May rebuked ministers who did not vote in the no-deal division while Mr Smith reportedly walked out after a discussion about the breakdown in discipline.  

Meanwhile, Mrs May made a huge concession that Parliament will take charge of Brexit on March 25 if she fails to get a majority for her deal, it emerged today. She scraped through by just two votes last night to stop MPs taking control until after she has a third attempt at getting her deal through. 

There were reports the EU will demand a second referendum in return for extending Article 50 and France warned Britain will be left to crash out on March 29 unless Mrs May can produce a deal or a clear plan.


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