PM's deputy forced to deny government 'deep freeze' amid Brexit concerns

David Lidington, 'Theresa May's de facto deputy'

Theresa May's deputy has been forced to deny Brexit has forced the government to put any of its functions into "deep freeze".

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington issued the denial as Labour warned the Tory administration was in an "advanced state of decay" and seeking to abandon "non-essential" government business as it advanced preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

Lidington also told MPs they had a "responsibility" to agree a Brexit deal and avoid a no-deal exit.

Speaking in the Commons, shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said: "Yesterday's Cabinet meeting appears to have decided to abandon all non-essential government business.

"It reveals an administration in an advanced state of decay.

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"Will the minister now tell the House which government functions he regards as non-essential and is now putting into deep-freeze?"

Lidington replied: "We've taken no decisions to put anything into deep-freeze.

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"What we are engaged on is prudent contingency planning so we are prepared against all eventualities.

"I am afraid (Trickett) yet again has ducked the opportunity to say what the Opposition's preferred outcome is if they object to the deal that is on the table."

Tory Brexiteer Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood), speaking at Cabinet Office questions, highlighted "fears" that the Article 50 process to enable the UK to leave the EU would be drawn out or cancelled.

She said: "In this context, do you agree with me that democracy delayed is democracy denied?"

Lidington said prime minister Theresa May had been clear about the date when Brexit will occur, adding: "It is important we leave but do so in a way that protects jobs, investment and living standards in this country.

"That is why this House has the responsibility to agree to a deal and not go into a no-deal exit."

Earlier, Labour MP Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) shouted "Let's have a vote then" after Lidington highlighted the need to back the Government's deal due to "difficulties for our livestock exporters in the event of no-deal".

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