Senior Cabinet ministers have warned Boris Johnson that they will attempt to inflict maximum damage to his government if he pursues a no-deal Brexit upon reaching Downing Street.
Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed today that he would quit the Treasury before he was sacked by Johnson, who is expected to be crowned Britain’s next Prime Minister on Tuesday.
The revelation that Hammond intends to jump before being pushed followed an article in the Sunday Times in which justice secretary David Gauke announced that he too will resign in opposition to a no-deal Brexit, which he said would lead to “national humiliation”.
Speaking to the BBC, Hammond said: “Assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next Prime Minister, I understand that the conditions of serving in his government would include accepting a no-deal exit on 31 October.
“That is not something I could ever sign up to.”
Johnson has repeatedly said the UK must leave the EU on the 31 October deadline, “do or die, come what may” and has not ruled out suspending parliament in order to push through a no-deal Brexit in the event he could not secure new terms with Brussels.
The proposal has caused mounting alarm among several senior Tories and earlier this week four Cabinet ministers – Hammond, Gauke, business secretary Greg Clark and international development secretary Rory Stewart – defied a three-line whip and abstained in a vote that made the suspension of parliament more difficult.
The chancellor confirmed he would campaign from the backbenches to allow parliament to block a no-deal Brexit, but stopped short of saying he would support a vote of no confidence in a Johnson government.
However, a number of disgruntled Tories are reported to be considering a no confidence vote or a defection to the Lib Dems to deprive Johnson of a parliamentary majority if he sticks to his pledge of leaving without a deal.
One senior Lib Dem source told City A.M. a small number of Tories whose position had become “untenable” in the party were considering a defection, while those opposed to a no-deal exit were likely to wait until after the summer to launch a no confidence motion in their new leader.
“If there is a no confidence motion it will be down the track when Johnson is making a mess of Brexit,” the source said. “It has the effect of rallying the faint-hearted.”
As a number of senior Tories consider their position, speculation mounted as to who Johnson might appoint to his Cabinet.
The Independent reported that former international development secretary Priti Patel was being lined up as a potential home secretary, while a growing number of Westminster-watchers say Liz Truss could be made business secretary. Current home secretary and former banker Sajid Javid looks set to replace Hammond at the Treasury.