Amber Rudd’s intervention could be game-changer

by Hugo Dixon | 27.09.2018

So far, Amber Rudd is only backing a new public vote on Brexit if Theresa May ends up with no deal. But that’s exactly the scenario MPs may soon be facing. The former home secretary’s statement yesterday could therefore be decisive in the looming parliamentary battle at the end of the Brexit talks. After all, if a Tory bigwig who has hitherto backed the prime minister to the hilt supports a People’s Vote, other Conservative moderates may well follow her example.

Rudd told ITV’s Robert Peston last night: “I think ‘no deal’ is something that Parliament would … object to. I think that a People’s Vote could be the result of (such) an impasse. Is it preferable to a ‘no deal’? Absolutely.”

The May loyalist has until now backed the prime minister’s Chequers proposal. Indeed, she organised a group of former cabinet ministers to shore May up in the early summer against attacks from Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. But Chequers is now as good as dead after the EU said it was unworkable.

No to Canada

Rudd supports May in resisting hardline Brexiters who want the government to negotiate a Canada-style free trade deal. This is partly because the EU would only agree to such a deal if we allow border controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland – and the former home secretary is full square behind the prime minister in rejecting a break-up of the UK. She also rightly points out that a Canada deal would damage our manufacturing industry.

Demand a vote on the Brexit deal

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Rudd told Peston: “I’ve talked to a few colleagues and I reckon there are conservatively about 40 of us who would not support a Canada-type deal.” This would be more than enough Tory MPs to sink any such plan, even if the hardliners kicked May out as prime minister and replaced her with one of their number.

This means that those Cabinet ministers who want to switch to Canada if the EU continues to say no to Chequers – including Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid, according to The Times – are probably on a hiding to nothing. Unless, that is, they can change the parliamentary maths by calling a snap election and winning it big – which seems like a very tall order.

Limits to loyalty

But there are limits to Rudd’s loyalty. The prime minister reiterated on the way to the United Nations this week that crashing out with no deal would be preferable to Canada; whereas the former home secretary says a People’s Vote would be “absolutely” preferable to no deal.

Rudd has not excluded another option – a “Norway-style EEA deal” that would keep us in the EU’s single market. The snag is that most Tories – including the prime minister – are implacably opposed to such an arrangement as it would mean signing up to free movement of people. Many also don’t like it on the grounds that it would turn us into a “vassal state”, because we’d have to follow EU rules without a vote on them. Even Labour doesn’t want to stay in the EEA, saying confusingly it wants “a” single market deal but not to stay in “the” single market. So the chances of getting the EEA through Parliament are slim.

It is, therefore, increasingly possible that there will be no deal at the end of the Brexit talks. In such a scenario, Rudd should be able to lead a posse of Tories to press for a People’s Vote. Labour has already taken a big step towards a People’s Vote at its conference this week. Add Rudd’s faction together with Conservatives such as Dominic Grieve who are already backing a new vote and there could then be a clear majority in Parliament to ask the people if they prefer to stay in the EU rather than charge over the abyss.

Edited by Quentin Peel

7 Responses to “Amber Rudd’s intervention could be game-changer”

  • A completely incompetent woman.

    Complete failure in business which she tried her hand at, losing people hundreds of thousands of pounds. Yet she carried on regardless, and lost them more again. Lucky not to have been prosecuted (one of her co-directors was – and did time).

    Yet here she is in the Tory Party.

    And with her sliver majority scales the heights and becomes Home Secretary. Says a lot about Cameron and his application process.

    NOT a conservative bone in her body. She is liberal left EU apparatchik, which of course absolves her from any real responsibility. Theresa May Junior.

    At least she will not be in the House after 2022, but will get kicked upstairs to create further mayhem from above.

  • Amber Rudd is only speaking the truth.
    Many Conservative voters I know agree with her.
    I hope many more moderates like myself will speak out to support her.
    The PM must face the fact that, when one calculates the figures taking account of the fact that only around 34% voted to leave and nearly as many did not vote in the referendum, it is not true to claim that “the British people have spoken”.

    Those of us who know how the EU really works and know the benefits to our citizens of our membership are horrified to witness the lack of knowledge on this demonstrated by some MP’ s and by Brexiters.
    Margaret Daly
    Former MEP

  • As we all know, millions of us in 2016 voted to Remain, and ALL the evidence since the Referendum indicates that the current electorate….16 and 17 yr olds at the time of the Referendum now eligible to vote, would prefer to stay in the EU.

    David Davis (who? future generations will ask), said any Democracy which couldn’t change its mind wasn’t a Democracy. JRM says, well it might take 50 years to see the benefits of Brexit, Farage said…well I never said we’d be better off……shall I go on?

    To leave the EU is simply a bad idea and will harm the UK. This was recognised by May, her predecessor, and most of the cabinet and shadow cabinet pre 2016. And by democratically elected PMs since Churchill. Blaming poor negotiation skills, EU intransigence etc etc does not fix what is an impossible problem i.e. How to leave the EU and be better off than we were before….meeting all the naive Pie in the sky hopes of leavers. I was never a fan of Rudd, but I’d support her at the moment as she’s making more sense than most, and at least is sticking her hand up…..unlike many of her colleagues from both sides of the house.

  • Margaret Daly…..you got there first! The Leaver campaign wa strong because they had a few simple messages which all the key players stuck to. Strange bedfellows….Banks, Farage, Johnson, Mr Witherspoons, Mr Fancy Hoover etc all effectively conspired to manipulate an extremely effective campaign. Totally outclassing the pathetic and negative messages put forward by Cameron and his lacklustre team. I still find I’m arguing with fellow Remainers about detail……and this is not as powerful as the repetitive but consistent garbage from the leavers…..immigration……sovereignty…….take back control…..voice of the people….blah blah….!

  • If Amber Rudd’s oulook prevails among MPs, then it ought to be possible for the Commons simply to reject No Deal. We know that Labour rejects it, and more than a good few of Tory MPs surely appreciate that leaving without a deal would be catastrophic. Could a majority of MPs really take it upon themselves to invite the people to (possibly) bring the catastrophe upon themselves?
    It’s not as if there is any argument for a referendum when no deal has been got. The referendum led to the triggering of Article 50, according to which “the [European] Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with [the UK], setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal”. And very certainly in 2016 the electorate were not told that they might have another chance to vote because they might want to express a preference for the UK’s crashing out of the EU once it had been established that there was no Brexit that the Government had managed to agree in accordance with the protocol for leaving.
    True, if No Deal is voted down in the Commons, something else has to happen. I suppose Labour might hope that they now had everything they needed for a ‘No confidence’ vote. But perhaps it’s not too much to hope that the Commons’ rejection of No Deal would go hand in hand with their acceptance of retracting A50. …

  • Now that we even have arch-brexiteers admitting that we will be worse off and also that the referendum result was illegally obtained, you’ve got to wonder why May is still pressing ahead. Is she just thick? Is she simply stubborn? Has she been brainwashed? Is she secretly playing the long-game?

    Why would any patriotic leader want to do something so clearly at odds with the welfare of her country? Great leaders would not wreck their economy on a notional ‘whim of the people’. If the country voted to point Britain’s nuclear warheads at London would she press the button? You’ve got to wonder.