No-deal Brexit 'default position' if no alternative works, says Leadsom

PUBLISHED: 09:54 23 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:54 23 December 2018

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MPs who want to block a no-deal Brexit will have to either vote for Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement or a replacement to do it, Andrea Leadsom has warned.

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The Brexiteer Commons Leader warned politicians lining up to block efforts to take the UK out of the EU in March without an alternative no-deal was the "legal default position".

Her comments in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph came after she spoke in support of a "managed no-deal" as a possible alternative to the PM's Withdrawal Agreement should it fail to pass the Commons in January's planned vote.

In a sign of the widening splits in Tory thinking over no-deal, Three Tory MPs - Nick Boles, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston - have warned they would resign the whip if a no-deal Brexit ever became official government policy, and justice secretary David Gauke has suggested he would quit the government.

Leadsom, who publicly supports Theresa May's Brexit deal, told the Sunday Telegraph: "Parliament can always of course express a view, but in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, Parliament does need to vote for a deal."

She added: "The legal default position is that if there isn't a deal then the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 without a deal."

Writing in the same paper, Boles spoke of how he left a hospital bed to vote for the triggering of Article 50.

He said: "I refuse to be bullied into accepting that crashing out of the EU with no deal would be an acceptable course for any British government to pursue.

"Nor am I willing to swallow pie in the sky about how no-deal Brexit might be 'managed' or 'mitigated"', especially when it is peddled by people who spent most or all of the last two-and-a-half years in Cabinet failing to make any preparations for this eventuality."

Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement is due to be voted on by MPs in January. But few expect it to be approved by a heavily divided Commons, and Tory MPs including Cabinet ministers appear to have begun to polarise between those who might support a no-deal Brexit and those who would actively battle against it.

However, Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who supports the Best for Britain group backing a second referendum, insisted that MPs do have the power to stop a no-deal Brexit.

She said: "Is this really where the Brexiters have ended up? The merchants of 'take back control' have pivoted to 'you can't stop us from crashing the car'.

"This is a barking dog that will never bite. The reality is that Parliament can, and will, stop a no-deal Brexit. No politician worth their salt would allow such chaos and unnecessary harm."

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