The work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, has conceded “anything could happen” if Theresa May fails to win next week’s historic Commons vote on her Brexit deal – including another referendum or a so-called Norway-plus deal. The minister, who campaigned to remain during the EU referendum, backed the prime minister’s deal, despite mounting opposition from…
The work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, has conceded “anything could happen” if Theresa May fails to win next week’s historic Commons vote on her Brexit deal – including another referendum or a so-called Norway-plus deal.
The minister, who campaigned to remain during the EU referendum, backed the prime minister’s deal, despite mounting opposition from more than 100 Conservative MPs who have vowed to vote against it.
However, she admitted that if the deal was voted down it could lead to a “people’s vote” or another exit strategy, including a Norway-plus option, which would involve staying in the European Economic Area.
She also rejected suggestions the prime minister would be forced to stand down if she loses Tuesday’s crucial Commons vote, saying there was “no question” of May quitting.
Rudd, only recently reinstated to the cabinet after she resigned as home secretary over the Windrush scandal in April, was speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme after an interview with the Times, in which she said her preferred “plan B” would be to switch to the Norway-plus model.
Rudd threw her support behind the beleaguered prime minister’s deal and said she still thought it was the best option despite her comments about her preferred plan B.
“The best deal we have is the one the prime minister’s put forward. Most of us are coalescing behind it in order to try and deliver on the outcome of the referendum, the withdrawal agreement, the political declaration. I think that is the best compromise,” she said.
“What I’ve done is look ahead and seen that after that, if it doesn’t get through, anything could happen, there could be all sorts of alternatives that could be thrown up, which is one of the reasons we need to back the prime minister in the vote on Tuesday.”
When pointed out that May has declared there to be only one plan, Rudd said: “She’s right, there is only one plan. It’s remarkable, I think, that she’s managed to deliver on a plan which delivers on the outcome of the referendum. that gives us the best in terms of keeping close to the economy and addresses people’s concerns, for instance, on fishery and immigration.
“But, if that deal doesn’t get through, anything else could happen. There’s no other properly formed plan ready to take off the shelf and deal with. It could be chaotic after the withdrawal agreement, if it doesn’t get through. Lots of different factions are saying they don’t like it.
“But there isn’t anything, I don’t believe, that is better. The withdrawal agreement is the best option and will allow us to have the orderly departure, kind of over a period rather than immediately, which was always how I thought we’d have to deliver Brexit.
“But if it doesn’t get through, anything could happen: people’s vote, Norway-plus, any of these options could come forward. None of them are as good as the current arrangement we’ve got with the withdrawal agreement to vote on on Tuesday.”
MPs are reportedly lining up to sack May if the deal fails but Rudd rejected the notion that May would have to resign if she lost the Commons vote and denied she had any leadership ambitions.
“What would be a complete mistake would be to allow what is already an unstable period to descend into further instability with talk of a leadership challenge,” Rudd said.
Asked if May stood down as prime minister whether she would make a leadership bid, Rudd replied: “There is no question of her going. We need a leader.”
Rudd had told the Times that although she backed May’s deal, she believed the best plan B would be to switch to a so-called Norway-plus model. Although Norway is not a member of the EU, it is in the European Economic Area, meaning it is part of the single market.
She said that “seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are”, but added: “Nobody knows if it can be done.”
Rudd also told the Times that if there was another referendum she would vote for the country to stay in the EU. “I’m not someone who has just changed my mind. If there was another referendum, I think we’re better off in,” she said.