Dozens more Conservative MPs are set to join the ranks of those determined to prevent Britain’s next prime minister from forcing through a no-deal Brexit later this year.
Pro-European Conservative rebels anticipate a significant boost to their numbers when the next Conservative leader, likely to be the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, enters Downing Street.
Johnson has said that any member of his Cabinet “must be reconciled” to the possibility of leaving without a deal on October 31, in order to remain in government.
This means there is likely to be an exodus of Remain-voting ministers, meaning that large numbers of potential rebels, including heavyweights such as the current Chancellor Philip Hammond and even Theresa May herself, could soon join the ranks of no-deal Brexit rebels.
“Are we deflated? No,” one former Conservative minister, turned rebel, told Business Insider.
“Fifty people are about to be sacked. Our numbers are going to increase.
The numbers will be there [to prevent no-deal] and the opportunities will be there.”
BBC Newsnight reported this week that there was a “gloomy atmosphere” among Conservative MPs who are hoping to stop a no-deal Brexit, given the trenchant comments on the issue made in recent weeks by both leading candidates for the job.
However, Conservative rebels told Business Insider that they were expecting a boost because dozens of MPs are about to be removed from the government payroll, freeing them up to rebel against the government whip.
Those prospective rebels include at least four serving Cabinet ministers, including Rory Stewart, the international development secretary, and David Gauke, the Justice Secretary.
Plans within the group to oppose a no-deal are being spearheaded by the Chancellor Philip Hammond, with MPs meeting in his office to discuss their best approach Sky News reports.
Hammond this week warned the next prime minister that parliament could and “should” be able to find a way of blocking no deal.
“The House Commons has been clear that it does not support a no-deal exit,” he said.
“Given that we have an activist speaker, given there is a parliamentary majority against no deal, a way will be found.”
Other pro-European ministers have been signalling that they would support efforts to prevent no-deal.
Theresa May last week hinted she would vote against a future prime minister who attempted to leave the UK with no deal, having become increasingly worried that such a move would precipitate the breakup of the United Kingdom.
David Gauke told the House magazine this week that parliament would ultimately find a way to prevent a no-deal.
Sam Gyimah, one of the 10 Tory MPs who voted against the government to try and take no-deal off the table in June, told BBC Newsnight on Thursday: “There are an increasing number of MPs who are alarmed at the prospect of no deal and are getting together to work out a number of options to be able to stop no deal.”