Ken Clarke: Pro-Brexit ministers should back Theresa May or resign

Catherine Neilan
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Clarke slammed the "diabolical behaviour" of Cabinet ministers (Source: Getty)

Brexiter Cabinet ministers should either back the Prime Minister or resign, one of the most senior figures in the Commons has said.

Father of the house Ken Clarke told City A.M. this week had seen "diabolical" behaviour by Eurosceptics on the front and backbenchers, resulting in a "fairly shambolic" couple of days in Westminster.

Read more: Another day of Brexit chaos in Westminster

In the last 48 hours, Brexit secretary David Davis threatened to resign over Theresa May's backstop proposal, which was rewritten at the last minute to include a specific end date, while a recording of foreign secretary Boris Johnson slamming key parts of the Brexit process has been leaked.

Speaking with City A.M.,Clarke urged ministers to "grow up" and return to "responsible politics" or quit.

"We need compromise. We desperately, urgently need a clear negotiating position. If members of the government don't agree with it they will have to resign. There's no shame or disgrace in that - you either accept collective responsibility or you resign. You don't go through the motions of agreeing to government policy and then brief against it to the press."

The former minister added: "If I were in her shoes I would be having ferocious rows with them.... She makes far too many concessions to this noisy minority in the government and on the backbenches. [But] she herself can be quite stubborn and tricky - I didn't call her a bloody difficult woman for nothing."

He slammed efforts by "headbanging Brexiters", led by the European Research Group, to "push members of the Cabinet into positions that I would view as very harmful".

But he rubbished the idea that the group, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, could depose May, saying she would be "backed by an overwhelming majority" if they forced a vote of no confidence,

"They are hopelessly outnumbered in parliament," he added.

"Backbenchers, whatever faction they are, have got to accept some clear policy line has got to be taken."

Clarke said the failure to secure any agreement within Westminster meant any hope of securing heads of terms by October was now scuppered.

"There's not a snowball's chance in Hades of deal being reached in October - you can’t sort all this out in that time," he said. "They're now saying we might get heads of terms by December, but I would think that’s lacking a bit of credibility now."

He called for transition to be used as a standstill period "until we have grown-up people who can carry out a proper international negotiation" are in place.

Instead the Prime Minister is having to deal with a "completely crazy situation in our party, the like of which we've never seen before".

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