Business secretary suggests ministers could quit over no-deal Brexit | Politics

The business secretary has indicated the he and other ministers would feel unable to remain in a government that recommended a no-deal Brexit should Theresa May fail to get her revised agreement through parliament.

Greg Clark told MPs on the business select committee that “he had always strongly expressed the view” that the UK needed to leave the European Union with a Brexit deal agreed.

The minister – one of the strongest voices in cabinet against leaving without a deal – was repeatedly pressed by the committee chair, Rachel Reeves, as to what would happen if the prime minister could not get a revised Brexit deal through the Commons as the 29 March deadline loomed.

At the culmination of a string of questions, Reeves asked Clark: “Would you still be a government minister in a government that took us out of the EU without a deal?”

Clark said that if leaving without a deal “were ever the policy of the government as a matter of policy” then “I think there would be many people on all sides of the house that would regard that as unacceptable”.

The minister said repeatedly that parliament needed “to grasp the nettle and agree a deal” and that May “needed to propose a deal that can command the support of the whole house,” before conceding: “That is very difficult.”

MPs on the committee also questioned Clark on his failure to tell them that he had been negotiating a package of financial support to Nissan worth up £80m in October 2016, contingent on the company building a new model X-Trail in Sunderland.

At the time Clark failed to say a state aid package was being negotiated and kept detail of reassurances to keep Nissan on board before Brexit secret, even telling the BBC at the time: “I don’t have a chequebook.”

Anna Turley, a Labour backbencher, demanded to know why Clark had kept the details of the state aid from the committee; the minister declined to apologise, saying: “I don’t have an ability to write a cheque.”

Turley said: “But you did write a cheque,” and pressed the minister as to why he was not prepared to tell MPs the taxpayer support that was on offer to Nissan. Clark said the package of state aid that was agreed for Nissan was applied for by the company – and not by the department – and was “scrutinised independently”. He said: “I do not have the ability to provide for funds myself” but added that he was very proud of the package of industrial support on offer for companies such as Nissan.

Carmakers have repeatedly said a chaotic exit from the EU would be damaging to the industry, with the Japanese company Toyota saying on Wednesday there was no way to avoid a negative impact from a no-deal Brexit.

Toyota’s executive vice-president, Shigeki Tomoyama, said the company wanted Britain “to avoid a no-deal Brexit at any cost”. Its assembly plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire, would have to halt production of the new Corolla vehicle if parts from the EU are delayed at the border, he added.

At the session, Clark agreed to provide a full list to MPs on the committee of state aid packages provided to multinationals, after the Guardian revealed that Toyota, Ford and BMW had received support as part of a £150m programme. Aerospace companies were the other principal beneficiaries of state aid, Clark indicated.

“All state aid is in the public domain,” Clark said, “when information is uploaded on to public websites.” After Reeves complained that most people did not know where to look to find the information, Clark said he was happy to provide her with a full list of companies receiving the benefits.

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