David Gauke warns Tory majority will lead to ‘disastrous’ no-deal Brexit

Ex-justice secretary David Gauke says a Tory majority will lead to a ‘disastrous’ no-deal Brexit Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

A former Tory Cabinet minister has warned a Conservative majority at the General Election will result in a "disastrous" no-deal.

David Gauke, the former justice secretary, told ITV News the party "is wanting to take the country in a dangerous direction", as he believes a Tory majority will mean the UK will leave the EU at the end of 2020 without a deal.

He suggested Tory supporters opposed to no deal should consider "lending" their votes to the Liberal Democrats on December 12.

Mr Gauke told ITV News: "The Conservative Party is wanting to take the country in a dangerous direction, far from getting Brexit done, we are going to enter into a negotiating period that isn't going to deliver a free trade agreement in time.

"I think it's systematic of a Conservative Party that is going in the wrong direction and is abandoning its reputation for economic competence."

His comments came after two former Labour MPs, Ian Austin and John Woodcock, last week urged Labour voters to support the Tories, saying Jeremy Corbyn was unfit to be prime minister.

Mr Gauke, who had the Tory whip withdrawn by Mr Johnson after rebelling over Brexit, confirmed he would now be standing as an independent in South West Hertfordshire – the seat he has held since 2005.

He said he feared if Mr Johnson was returned with an overall majority it would lead to Britain leaving the EU at the end of the transition period at the end of 2020 on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

“A Conservative majority after the next General Election will take us in the direction of a very hard Brexit,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“In all likelihood at the end of 2020 we will leave the implementation period without a deal with the EU, on WTO terms, in effect on no-deal terms, that I believe would be disastrous for the prosperity of this country – whole sectors would become unviable.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he "regrets" the Tory party does not have the support of David Gauke but the Conservatives "will do our best in the campaign ahead".

And Cabinet minister Michael Gove said his former colleague was wrong to say a Tory majority at the General Election will lead to a no-deal Brexit, as it is "feasible" a deal will be done by December 2020.

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Gove said: "No country is closer to the EU at the moment in terms of its economic relationship than the United Kingdom...and Simon Coveney, the Irish Deputy Prime Minister has said he believes it is entirely feasible that we can conclude all the negotiations that we need to conclude in 2020."

The ex-justice secretary said that even if Mr Johnson wanted to extend the transition period in order to allow more time to negotiate a new free trade deal with the EU, he would be unable to do so.

“I think in reality the Prime Minister is so boxed in that the Conservative Party would not allow him to extend the implementation period even if he wanted to – and he shows no signs of wanting to do so,” he said.

Mr Gauke said he did not identify as a Lib Dem, but suggested that Tory supporters could consider voting for them in some parts of the country.

“I’m impressed by (Lib Dem leader) Jo Swinson. I think if I was living in a lot of constituencies I would lend my vote to the Liberal Democrats,” he said.

The former Tory Cabinet minister has also endorsed calls for a second referendum, saying there was no longer any chance of uniting the country around a “relatively soft Brexit”.

Boris Johnson says a Tory majority will end the ‘groundhoggery’ of Brexit. Credit: PA

His intervention came as Mr Johnson was preparing to deliver a campaign speech appealing to voters to deliver a Conservative government so they can finally get Brexit done.

“If we can get a working majority we can get Parliament working for you, we can get out of the rut. We can end the groundhoggery of Brexit,” he will say.