Rees-Mogg hints he may be forced to back May's Brexit deal

Arch-Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg hinted that he might now be forced to back Theresa May's deal if the alternative was no Brexit at all.

On his Conservativehome podcast, the European Research Group chairman said: "The Prime Minister will not deliver a no-deal Brexit."

Asked if that meant the options were now "deal or potentially no Brexit", he said: "That, I think, becomes the choice eventually.

"Whether we are there yet is another matter, but I have always thought that no-deal is better than Mrs May's deal, but Mrs May's deal is better than not leaving at all."

He added that "leaving the European Union, even leaving it inadequately and having work to do afterwards is better than not leaving at all".

Brexit may now need to be viewed as "a process rather than an event".

It was, he said, a "process of unravelling and diverging which will take time".

May under pressure after MPs seize control of Brexit process

Theresa May faces calls to grant free votes on alternatives to her Brexit strategy after MPs dramatically seized control of the process.

The UK Prime Minister’s fragile authority suffered another blow as three ministers quit to back a Commons amendment enabling MPs to take control of Commons business to stage a series of “indicative votes” on alternatives to her deal.

They were among 30 Conservative MPs to defy the whips and support the cross-party amendment which was passed by 329 to 302 – a majority of 27 – in another humiliating reverse for Mrs May.

The defeat heaps further pressure on Mrs May’s position and could increase the chances of an early general election if MPs back plans for a softer Brexit which would be unacceptable to the Prime Minister or Tory Eurosceptics.

At Tuesday’s regular Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister is expected to be confronted with calls for free votes on the rival options.

“Many around the Cabinet table will argue for a free vote so Parliament can truly show what it would support,” a Cabinet source said.

Alistair Burt, who quit his Foreign Office role in order to vote for the Commons amendment, said: “Parliament should seek urgently to resolve the situation by considering alternatives freely, without the instruction of party whips, and Government should adopt any feasible outcome as its own in order to progress matters.

“I did not believe the Government was prepared to do that, so had to vote to ensure this happens.”

Theresa May leaves the House of Commons following the key Brexit votes (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The Prime Minister warned she would not feel bound by the results of any indicative votes.

“No Government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is,” she said.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Government must “take this process seriously”.

The vote came after the Prime Minister acknowledged that she still did not have sufficient support to bring back her deal to the Commons for a third “meaningful vote”.

She said she would continue her efforts to build support for the deal – defeated by 230 votes in January and 149 votes in March – and stage a vote before the end of the week.

The European Council last week set a deadline of Friday for her to secure parliamentary approval for her Withdrawal Agreement if the UK is to leave the EU with a deal on May 22.

If she cannot get it through the Commons, then the UK has until April 12 to propose a different approach or crash out of the EU without a deal.

Her admission came shortly after a phone call with DUP leader Arlene Foster, who made clear the Northern Irish party was not giving up its opposition.

- Press Association

Join the conversation - comment here

House Rules for comments - FAQ - Important message for commenters

Most Read in World