The former Tory Cabinet Minister explained on BBC’s This Week that Britain is being too presumptuous when it comes to extending the date of departure from the EU. He told Andrew Neil: “Parliament has been having all these declaratory votes. It only requires one member of the European Union to veto an extension of Article 50 and there will be no extension of Article 50.
“And I think the EU attitude is hardening.
“And, therefore, there may not be an extension of Article 50.
“And that would mean that by March 29th, parliament would be required to vote for one of three things: Mrs May’s deal, no deal or no Brexit.”
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster David Lidington – Theresa May’s effective deputy – denied that the Government was falling apart after seven Cabinet ministers including Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay voted against the Prime Minister’s motion on delaying EU withdrawal.
Mr Lidington told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It was a free vote in that division yesterday. Now, what happens this morning is that the entire Cabinet has accepted the position that Parliament voted for last night.
“I’ve been working very constructively with Steve Barclay since his appointment a couple of months ago despite the fact that he and I were vigorously on opposite sides of the debate during the referendum, and we are continuing to work very constructively together today and in the days to come.”
Mr Lidington said he believed that Leave-backing ministers had used the free vote as “an opportunity to register how unhappy they were with being in the position where we don’t really have an option as a country except to seek an extension of our time in the European Union”.
Mr Lidington said that leaving on March 29 with no deal remains the “legal default position” but the likelihood of it happening had “diminished” after this week’s votes.
He said he was still hoping that the UK will “leave as soon as possible in an orderly fashion” by MPs backing Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement next week.
Asked if defeat for the PM’s deal might mean an extension of a year or more, Mr Lidington said: “Those are the indications which the Brussels institutions of the EU – the Commission, the Council secretariat and certain member state governments – have been giving to us.”
He added: “I hope that MPs of all parties will be over this weekend just reflecting on the way forward.”