Michael Gove has said that if MPs do not back Theresa May’s Brexit plan there could be a fresh EU referendum.
He told the BBC’s Marr show that the deal was not ‘perfect’ but if it not was supported in the Commons there was a risk of ‘no Brexit at all’.
The environment secretary insisted the government could still win the crucial vote – despite scores of Tory MPs threatening to vote against it.
Gove, who was one of the leaders of the Leave campaign in the referendum in 2016, said he had reflected ‘long and hard’ before deciding to back the plan.
But while there were aspects of the deal he found ‘uncomfortable’, he believed it was now the right way forward.
‘I reflected long and hard about this deal but I concluded, like lots of people, that while it is imperfect it is the right thing to do,’ he told Andrew Marr.
‘One of the things that I hope people will have the chance to do over the next nine days is to recognise that we should not make the perfect the enemy of the good.
‘We have got to recognise that if we don’t vote for this, the alternatives are no deal or no Brexit.
‘I believe that we can win the argument and win the vote. I know it is challenging.’
Downing Street will hope that the intervention of Gove – who turned down the job of brexit secretary following the resignation of Dominic Raab – will help persuade some Brexiteers to back the agreement.
The environment secretary said the most difficult element of the deal was the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’, intended to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic.
Brexiteers have warned it could see the UK tied to EU customs arrangements for years with no exit mechanism, while negotiations continue with Brussels on a trade deal.
But Gove insisted there was no incentive for the EU to prolong Britain’s stay in the backstop.
‘The critical thing about the backstop is, however uncomfortable it is for the UK, it is more uncomfortable for the European Union,’ he said.
‘We will have tariff-free access to their markets without paying a penny. And, more than that, we will have control of our borders.
‘While it does contain elements that for a Unionist or for a Brexiteer aren’t perfect, it also contains elements that for any European politician would allow them to see Britain having a competitive advantage over their own country and their own economy.
‘This fundamentally works against the interests of the single market and against the interests of European nations.’