Could Hastings MP Amber Rudd be heading for the cabinet exit door for the second time in just nine months?
Ms Rudd has been forefront of the Brexit debate this week and she is being tipped by the national media as one of several high-profile cabinet ministers who are set to resign in protest if they are not allowed to vote with their conscience in this week’s latest round of ‘crunch’ votes on plans for the UK to leave the European Union.
In normal circumstances cabinet ministers must accept what is called collective responsibility meaning they MUST vote in line with government policy or resign their position as a minister of state.
But with the government’s bill outlining an agreement for the UK’s departure from the EU due to come back before parliament on Tuesday several cabinet ministers, including Ms Rudd, are trying to persuade Prime Minister Theresa May to allow them a free vote on the issue and on the numerous amendments to the bill that are expected to be tabled in the House of Commons this week.
Speaking on BBC2’s Newsnight earlier this week Ms Rudd said: “I’m committed to avoiding no deal,” and she went on to describe leaving the EU with no deal as, “the worst possible outcome,” of all potential Brexit options.
Asked if she would resign over the issue she said there were: “lots of moving parts” in Westminster at the moment and when pressed she refused to rule out resigning her cabinet position saying: “I’m just going to carry on making my point in my words.”
Ms Rudd is thought to be particularly keen on an amendment proposed by former Labour front bencher Yvette Cooper which could potentially extend the Article 50 process until the end of the year as a way of trying to avoid leaving the EU without a deal.
In the Newsnight interview Ms Rudd said: “A no-deal is the worst possible outcome, but I am part of a process that agreed that we would leave the European Union at the end of March… it’s not a realistic alternative compared to the better outcome of leaving with a deal. I’m committed to making sure that we avoid no deal.”
Were Ms Rudd to resign her position as Secretary of state for the Department for Work and Pensions this week she would have held the post for less than 80 days.
Ms Rudd’s brother Roland is the Chair of the People’s Vote campaign which is pressing for a second referendum.
Meanwhile the most recent polling for the Best For Britain group – which campaigns for the UK to remain in the EU – shows that 52,5 per cent of people in Hastings now want the country to remain part of the EU.
At the referendum in June 2016 Hastings and Rye voted 56.2 per cent to leave with 43.8 per cent voting to remain. In December polling carried out by the Best for Britain indicated that opinion has shifted with 50.5 per cent of local voters now wanting Britain to remain in the European Union.
Now, according the the organisation, the latest polling shows that 52.5 per cent of local people want to remain part of the EU.