Disobedient ministers voting against the government’s Brexit proposals are putting Theresa May in a perilous position, a former cabinet secretary has warned.
Esther McVey resigned in November last year over the government’s Brexit plan, saying that she preferred the UK to crash out of the European Union without a deal rather than sign up to the prime minister’s terms.
She is now set to vote for the deal that she had previously rejected, saying that ‘all the rules have changed’ and that: ‘The choice is between this deal, a bad deal, or no Brexit whatsoever.
‘We’re going to have to hold our noses and vote for it.’
But other cabinet ministers have openly contradicted the government’s position, with Brexit secretary Steve Barclay even voting against the bid to take no deal off the table he had closed the argument for in the House of Common.
Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, McVey called for greater discipline in cabinet and said: ‘She has made life very difficult for herself and her cabinet ministers, by defying collective responsibility, have made life very difficult for the prime minister – and that is now what she’s got to look at, has she got discipline in the government?’
Asked about whether Theresa May should lay out a timetable for her departure, McVey said: ‘She will have to think about that.
‘When collective responsibility collapses like that, who is the voice of government? The government should only have one voice so the country knows what we stand for and the world knows what we stand for.
‘To have your team not abiding by that – they should’ve resigned.
‘They are making the prime minister’s position very dubious. Her cabinet are doing that to her.’
McVey was also asked whether she would stand if there was a leadership election.
‘If there was enough people supporting me, I would,’ she said.
On the same show, Ridge also questioned international trade secretary Liam Fox why he himself had voted against the proposal to take no deal off the table.
He said it ws ‘important to send a signal that we still wanted to get an agreement to leave on time’, adding: ‘I wanted to ensure we sent a signal to voters that we wanted to honour her manifesto commitments.’
Despite several ministers voting against the government this week, Fox laughably said that ‘collective responsibility is the price we pay for having the privilege to sit around the cabinet table’.