“Obviously, I can’t comment on what will be discussed in Cabinet tomorrow, but we all want to make the necessary preparations.” That’s more or less what a Minister would usually say, if cornered by a media enquiry, about today’s discussion on No Deal plans.
But these are not normal times. Some Ministers, like Penny Mordaunt today, lean towards a managed No Deal – if that’s possible – when Theresa May’s deal fails to clear the Commons in January, assuming that to be the case. Others, like Greg Clark or David Gauke, want an indicative vote and a second referendum. Amber Rudd who, seemed recently to be all for Norway Plus, may have joined them.
Matt Hancock’s breaking ranks over No Deal preparations must be seen in that light. He ordered the NHS to go to full No Deal planning last week, thus taking matters into his own hands at a time of paralysis at the top. (Downing Street would have been consumed by the leadership ballot challenge.)
“We’ve instituted full No Deal planning within the NHS and the department already, and I would like to see the whole of Government going to that position – because its the responsible thing to do,” he told Newsnight. He said that he doesn’t want No Deal to happen, but that it might happen, so government must be prepared (a point we made yesterday).
The Health Secretary’s allies say that he didn’t want to make a fuss about the decision – which is why it didn’t become public last week – and has only spoken on the record because news of it leaked very recently. The Prime Minister has now decided to step No Deal preparations, they add, so he wasn’t speaking out of turn by being interviewed yesterday.