International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has denied that he sold out fellow Brexiteers in backing Theresa May.
The minister, who was a prominent Vote Leave campaigner, has refused to join Dominic Raab, David Davis and others who resigned from the prime minister’s top team in protest of her plans for leaving the EU.
At an event in Bristol on Friday, Fox insisted he is staying in the cabinet for “crucial discussions” to ensure Brexit is not “stolen from the people”.
He earlier hinted more ministers could resign before the crucial December 11 vote on withdrawal terms, however, telling the BBC: “Members of the cabinet who don’t vote for the deal won’t be members of the cabinet.”
It comes as the stakes were raised by European Council president Donald Tusk, who issued a stark warning to British MPs about May’s deal the same day.
Tusk told reporters at the G20 summit in Argentina the PM’s plan is “the only possible one” and that voting it down will either lead to a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all.
“The European Union has just agreed an orderly divorce with the United Kingdom,” he said.
“A few days before the vote in the House of Commons it is becoming more and more clear that this deal is the best possible – in fact the only possible one.
“If this deal is rejected in the Commons we are left with, as was already stressed a few weeks ago by Prime Minister May, an alternative: no deal or no Brexit at all.”
He added that “the EU is prepared for every scenario”.
Commenting on Tusk’s warning back in Bristol, Fox agreed he was correct.
“Well I certainly think it’s brought those choices into stark relief,” he said.
The cabinet minister added: “For me, failing to honour the referendum would not only be undemocratic, but I think it would be quite dangerous in terms of the way that the public view the political establishment in the United Kingdom.
“I think if the public vote for Brexit, and Parliament were to try and steal that from the British public, then I think that would create a real schism between Parliament and the electorate.”
Answering questions from reporters, Fox was asked: “Isn’t the biggest deal that you’ve done is to sell out your fellow Brexiteers?”
He replied: “No, I think that those that you mentioned, they made their own decisions but they no longer have a seat at the cabinet table for crucial discussions that will come in the near future.
“I want to make sure above all else that we actually leave the European Union on March 29.
“The worse thing that could happen is that in a Parliament which has a majority of Remainers is that Brexit gets stolen from the people of the United Kingdom.”
Theresa May, meanwhile, accused Labour of planning a “betrayal of the British people” by voting down her Brexit deal and pushing the country towards a no-deal departure from the EU.
The PM urged all MPs – including 100 or more Tories who have said they may rebel – to cast their vote “in the national interest” and back a deal which she said would deliver Brexit while protecting jobs.
In a round of broadcast interviews at the G20 summit, May declined to discuss any ‘plan B’ Brexit if her deal is defeated or whether it could lead to her resignation.
“It’s not about me,” said May. “This is about what is in the national interest.
“It’s about delivering the vote to leave the EU and doing it in a way that protects people’s jobs and livelihoods and protects our security and our United Kingdom.”
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, meanwhile, confirmed that all 257 Labour MPs would vote against May’s deal.
He also told Talk Radio that any second referendum on Brexit, a potential option for MPs, would need to include “some form of Remain” on the ballot paper.
The Jeremy Corbyn-ally also said Labour was unlikely to back a deal that the PM negotiated in the remaining weeks before Brexit day on March 29.
He said: “I don’t know if she does come back with minor tweaks or something like that? I can’t see our own side supporting her, let alone us.”