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Boris Johnson facing rebellion from cabinet over no-deal Brexit

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LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a new rebellion from his Cabinet over concerns of a no-deal Brexit, with a group of five ministers being on a "resignation watch list", The Times newspaper reported yesterday.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, British Minister for Northern Ireland Julian Smith, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Health Minister Matt Hancock and Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox are on the watch list, according to the report.

An unnamed Cabinet minister cited by the newspaper said that a "very large number" of Conservative members of Parliament will quit if it comes to a no-deal Brexit.

The Times said that ministers had warned Mr Johnson in a Cabinet meeting about the "grave" risk of the return of direct rule in Northern Ireland and raised concerns about Mr Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson's most senior adviser.

"Cabinet will set the strategy, not unelected officials. If this is an attempt to do that then it will fail," the report quoted another Cabinet minister as having said.

While the Times newspaper did not specify how many Conservative lawmakers oppose a no-deal scenario, the Financial Times reported early yesterday that at least 50 members of Parliament from the party will revolt against a general election manifesto pledging to pursue a no-deal Brexit.

Certain lawmakers from the party are considering running on a softer individual Brexit platform or even standing aside altogether as a Tory candidate, the FT report added.

Meanwhile, European Union officials denied yesterday that Brussels was preparing a major concession to Britain to secure a Brexit deal.

The Times newspaper reported yesterday that the EU was ready to offer a mechanism for the Northern Irish assembly to leave a new so-called Ireland backstop after a number of years.

"Unfortunately, no bold new offer is coming from the EU side at this stage," said one official, while stressing that the bloc was not closing the door to more talks with Britain.

Another EU official dealing with Brexit said when asked if the EU was indeed ready to make such a step: "I did not hear that."

The officials said the bloc felt the gap was too big between the two sides on customs arrangements after Brexit to offer any breakthroughs on the Northern Irish element of the puzzle and go for a deal now. - REUTERS