Conservative Brexit rebels will block Theresa May from crashing out of the EU without a deal

Stephen HammondStephen Hammond MP.
  • Conservative rebel Stephen Hammond warns Brexiteers that MPs will block a no deal Brexit.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, the ex-government minister said a majority of MPs would stop a no deal Brexit if Theresa May fails to reach an agreement with the European Union.
  • This comes after Trade Secretary Liam Fox said he’d rather leave without a deal then extend Brexit talks.
  • Hammond accused Fox of being “naive” and urged hard Brexit-supporting colleagues to become “informed.”
  • He predicted a “political crunch” for the Conservative government if there is no Brexit deal.

LONDON – Conservative MPs will block any attempt to crash out of the European Union without a deal, a former Conservative minister and leading Brexit rebel has told Business Insider.

A number of serving and former Cabinet ministers have talked up the prospect of a no deal Brexit, in which Britain would leave all EU treaties and bodies with immediate effect and default to World Trade Organisation rules.

Last week, Trade Secretary Liam Fox told BI he would rather leave the EU with no deal then extend negotiations. Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, has also claimed that Britain would “do very well” in a no deal scenario.

However, speaking to Business Insider this week, Conservative MP Stephen Hammond said that although the so-called Conservative “rebels” haven’t had enough support to defeat the government in some recent Brexit votes, they would have more than enough to stop a no-deal Brexit.

“There are a number of colleagues who have wanted to give the prime minister room and scope to negotiate what her desired outcome is,” Hammond said in an interview with BI this week.

“However, they are also colleagues who are clear that if the outcome is a no deal, then they will make their view well-known that this isn’t acceptable for Britain

If the outcome is a no deal, then they will make their view well-known that this isn’t acceptable for Britain.

… No deal is not the default. That will not happen.”

The MP for Wimbledon and former vice-chair of the Conservative party predicted that a “political crunch” awaited Prime Minister May if she is unable to get a Brexit deal through Parliament in the coming months.

“I don’t think anyone should be under any illusion. This country is facing very hard political times,” he said.

Hammond is a leading supporter of a Brexit similar to the so-called Norway model, in which Britain would effectively stay in the single market via membership of the European Free Trade Association and negotiate a close customs partnership with the EU.

The ex-minister believes that faced by the reality of a no deal Brexit, most MPs would support this “smart” form of departure, which he claimed is attracting support from a growing number of MPs in the House of Commons.

May faces a political ‘crunch’ in the autumn

However, if MPs fail to agree on a deal before negotiations end, Britain would face “hard times,” he warned.

Asked whether a failure to get a Brexit deal through Parliament could trigger Prime Minister May’s downfall, Hammond said: “What will fall out of that will be impossible to predict – but it will be a crunch.”

Stephen Hammond MPStephen Hammond MPHammond MP.

Last week, BI revealed that Hammond’s Tory colleague, Sarah Wollaston, was an official supporter of the People’s Vote campaign. Conservative MPs Anna Soubry, Philip Lee and Justine Greening have also called for another public vote.

Hammond said he did not back another referendum “for the simple reason that there are plenty of negotiating opportunities” but did not rule out backing it in the future, saying: “I do accept that the situation may change.”

As one of the so-called Conservative “rebels” – Tory MPs who have voted against the government on Brexit legislation – Hammond has been accused of treachery by some sections of the pro-Brexit media, and even some of his colleagues.

“The public discourse on this has been absolutely unacceptable,” he told BI, and said MPs who support a no-deal should seek to “take an informed view” and “understand the implications” of crashing out without an agreement.

“People have to listen to facts,” he said. “The overwhelming reality is that no deal is not good for Britain. The overwhelming evidence is we’d have to make a number of provisions and things will change.

“People need to accept that isn’t good to be going news.”

He added: “It’s an odd world when people who are respected in their professions and areas of knowledge, simply because they say something that others believe is contrary to their vision of the world, are immediately dismissed as promulgators of fear and traitors.”

He said Trade Secretary Fox was “naive” for accusing the EU of putting “political ideology” above its own citizens.

“The question will be whether the EU 27 leaders are willing to see the Commission’s political ideology put ahead of the economic well-being of the people of Europe,” Fox told BI last week.

Hammond said: “The charge from the EU would be that some of my pro-Brexit colleagues are putting ideology before pragmatism. Until July, there wasn’t a plan for the EU to negotiate with.

“What on earth has DExEU been to up to the last two years?

He added: “Liam must know as he goes around trying to put in the basis for negotiating trade deals, people will hopefully negotiate in good faith, but will clearly negotiate for the benefit of their own position.

“We would be mad to think that people are going to roll over in these negotiations and say ‘Britain is a nice place so let’s give it what it wants.’ That’s not how negotiations work. It is simply naive to think otherwise.”

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