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Theresa May explodes at ‘disloyalty’ of her Cabinet rebels

Theresa May exploded at her Cabinet members yesterday – accusing them of ‘disloyalty’ for defying orders over a key vote.

The Prime Minister gave a dressing down to Amber Rudd, David Gauke, Greg Clark and David Mundell after they helped Labour rule out a No Deal Brexit in all circumstances.

The confrontation came in a Cabinet meeting yesterday that followed a complete breakdown of party discipline in a string of key votes on Wednesday night.

Mrs May tore into the group for undermining her plan to confront MPs with a choice between her deal and a long delay to Brexit. One Cabinet source said Mrs May accused Miss Rudd and other Remainer rebels of ‘disloyalty’ for abstaining in the vote. Another told The Times: ‘She went bat****.’

Amber Rudd

David Gauke

Works and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd (left) and Justice Secretary David Gauke (right) were among the Tory rebels who ignored the Government whip on Wednesday night 

Business Secretary Greg Clark

Scotland Secretary David Mundell

Business Secretary Greg Clark (left) and Scotland Secretary David Mundell (right) leave Westminster following the Commons votes 

Chief Whip Julian Smith told those assembled there was no excuse to break collective responsibility.

He praised Sarah Newton for doing the honourable thing in resigning as a junior DWP minister so she could vote against, according to The Spectator.

When Mr Clark attempted to explain his actions by saying he was ‘confused’, Mr Smith is said to have walked out of the meeting. Mr Clark’s efforts to justify himself were said to have ‘ended badly’ after Mrs May shut him down.

Later, Remainer ministers described the criticism of their conduct as unfair.

One source said: ‘They challenged the Chief Whip and the PM over the handling of the vote. They never had the chance to discuss the whipping of the final vote – if they had, it would not have happened.’

Theresa May is driven away from the Houses of Parliament on Thursday night. She is said to have given a dressing down to Cabinet colleagues who abstained on the No Deal motion

Theresa May is driven away from the Houses of Parliament on Thursday night. She is said to have given a dressing down to Cabinet colleagues who abstained on the No Deal motion  

Amber Rudd (left) arrived at No 10 Downing Street with Greg Clark (centre) and Greg Clark (right) yesterday hours after they abstained in a Commons vote on No Deal

Amber Rudd (left) arrived at No 10 Downing Street with Greg Clark (centre) and Greg Clark (right) yesterday hours after they abstained in a Commons vote on No Deal 

Meanwhile a row broke out after reports circulated that the rebels had been told by a Number 10 aide that they could abstain on the vote.

Mrs May’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, Andrew Bowie, is said to have told ministers they would not be fired as a result.

But Nigel Evans, joint executive secretary of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, said that all MPs had received a text telling them they were on a three-line whip.

‘Apparently Cabinet ministers were confused last night as to whether they were on a three-line whip or not,’ he said. ‘Well, funnily enough, I received a text that told me on my phone that I was on a three-line whip. They received the same text. It’s amazing that you can be a Cabinet minister and still not know what a three-line whip text means.’

Mrs May’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, was also accused of ‘going rogue’ and overruling whips by suggesting Cabinet ministers could abstain. Furious MPs called for him to be sacked after the vote was lost. But it was unclear whether he had actually told them to abstain. Another MP said that 30 rebels were seen holding a caucus before the vote. They are said to have made a collective decision then to abstain on the vote, undermining reports that they were told they could abstain.

Mrs May sits on the front bench alongside Philip Hammond during a third consecutive night of high-stakes Brexit votes on Thursday

Mrs May sits on the front bench alongside Philip Hammond during a third consecutive night of high-stakes Brexit votes on Thursday

Theresa May appears certain to have a third attempt to get her Brexit deal agreed by MPs early next week but whatever happens will ask the EU for more time at a summit next Thursday

Theresa May appears certain to have a third attempt to get her Brexit deal agreed by MPs early next week but whatever happens will ask the EU for more time at a summit next Thursday 

The MP said it was ‘outrageous’ that they could defy the whip and keep all their ‘ministerial baubles’.

Yesterday, Work and Pensions Secretary Miss Rudd tweeted a letter she had sent to constituents defending her move.

‘Last night I abstained on the main motion in the House of Commons which asked whether we should leave the European Union without a deal,’ it said.

‘To do so would, in my view, do generational damage to our economy and security.

‘It is a mistake to leave the EU without a deal, but it is right to prepare to do so just in case so we can mitigate any damage as best as we can…’ 

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