May faces 20 ministerial resignations if they are not allowed free vote on solving Brexit mess

The Prime Minister faces a mass walk-out if a free vote is blocked, Robert Peston predicts. Credit: PA

Theresa May conveyed no sense at Cabinet as to whether her ministers will be allowed to vote with their consciences tomorrow on Sir Oliver Letwin's indicative votes, to find a solution to the Brexit mess.

She has been warned by MP Anne Milton that there could be 20 resignations from junior ranks of government to add to the three on Monday, if she does not allow a free vote.

Ministerial sources tell me that the four in the cabinet, justice minister David Gauke, Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and Scottish minister David Mundell, who are seen as the leaders of the anti-no-deal rebels, won't resign.

It is not yet clear whether there will be a free vote on Sir Oliver Letwin's indicative votes. Credit: PA

There is a view among the ministers prepared to fight to the political death, to prevent a no-deal Brexit, that the quartet known as the Gaukward Squad are better off for now staying in the Cabinet, because if they quit, the balance of the Cabinet would shift definitively towards supporters of a no deal Brexit.

My hunch would be that if the PM, on advice of the chief whip, stands firm and refuses a free vote, there would probably be "only" 10 resignations.

That is what ministers tell me to expect.

Indicative votes: what could happen next? Credit: PA Graphics

But even 10, on top of Monday's three, creates a major headache for the PM.

It's not easy to find 13 new ministers from the backbench pool, given the numbers there who would never ever want a junior ministerial job, or are wholly unsuitable.

Being prime minister doesn't get easier for Theresa May.