Published: 08:00, 14 March 2019
| Updated: 08:50, 14 March 2019
A Kent MP has defended his decision to abstain on a key vote which saw Prime Minister Theresa May defeated on the option of retaining a ‘No Deal’ Brexit.
Greg Clark was one of four cabinet members to abstain on the key vote.
He has come under fire for failing to back the Prime Minister in yesterday's debate as MPs backed the call for ‘no deal’ to be taken off the agenda entirely.
Mr Clark said in an interview on ITV’s Peston: “The whipping was decided very late in the day. Not after a collective discussion about it as most policies are I think it is, in fact it has been completely consistent with government policy to date that we should not leave on the 29th of March without a deal and what we now have tomorrow is the ability to carry that forward.”
He added: “I know from my job as business secretary, talking to businesses, including calls that I’ve had today, just how important it is that they know that we won’t inadvertently crash out of the European Union without a deal on the 29th of March.
"And if the motion had not gone through tonight, that would have been it, Parliament would have no further chance of preventing that.”
But the vote to block the No Deal option provoked a furious response from South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, who supports Brexit. He said that the decision meant the government had given away its most powerful bargaining chip.
He tweeted: “I’m appalled at the way #Parliament voted tonight. 75% of MPs voted for Art 50 process on 1st Feb 2017. EU treaties might not be an easy read, but Art 50 is quite simple - we leave after 2 yrs, deal or #NoDeal. We’ve just given away our most powerful bargaining chip. #Pathetic"
MPs return to the Commons to debate whether there should be an extension to Article 50.