Brexit – generational damage or a challenge to be countered by government action?

In March Hastings MP Amber Rudd said a no-deal Brexit would do ‘generational damage’ to the UK economy, now she believes the risk of a no-deal Brexit is no more than a challenge that can be countered by government action.

Defending her position on ITV News today she denied that she had ‘sold her soul’ by abandoning her opposition to a no-deal Brexit in order to keep her job in cabinet.

Asked if she was a ‘sell out’, the Hastings MP said: “I don’t think so, no.”

But for Nick Perry who stood against Ms Rudd on three occasions as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Hastings and Rye it’s too much of a volte-face, he told Hastings In Focus today: “Amber’s words on no-deal are an indictment on her judgement and a betrayal of remainer residents who have continued to support her.

“With the Brexit Party announcing a candidate for Hastings & Rye, her time as MP must be almost over. It certainly should be.”

Ms Rudd, however, is in no mood for a general election saying the government needs to “get on and deliver”. She says she can sense no appetite for a general election when she speaks to people here in her Hastings and Rye constituency.

Some commentators were surprised when Ms Rudd kept her cabinet job as work and pensions secretary when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. She had been a staunch and very public supporter of the other leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt and famously said of Mr Johnston in 2016 that he was, “the life and soul of the party” but “not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening”.

However, while Ms Rudd has renounced her previously resolute opposition to no-deal, she said in the ITV interview today that she still believed no-deal would be much less preferable than a managed Brexit.

Ms Rudd told ITV News: “I can tell that a no-deal Brexit would be far worse than a deal Brexit, which is why the government is so focused on trying to get that. But we’re also putting in place a lot of preparations to make sure that should it come to that, we will have done all we can to mitigate against any difficulties.”

Asked if no-deal would bring a rise in unemployment she said: “It’s very difficult to tell, a no-deal Brexit is certainly going to be a challenge for the economy, which is why the government is putting together so much preparation, should it come to that. And we’re very clearly focused as a government that we want to get a deal.”

In January, Ms Rudd had threatened to resign from the government if she was not allowed a free vote on backbench amendments intended to stop no-deal, eventually abstaining on the issue.

In a letter to her Hastings and Rye constituents in March, she explained that she had abstained because she believed no-deal would: “do generational damage to our economy and security”.

Ms Rudd had joined with her then cabinet colleagues David Gauke and Greg Clark to force Theresa May to take no-deal off the table and stop the UK leaving the EU at the end of March.

But she began to change her position shortly before Johnson beat Jeremy Hunt to become the new Conservative leader and Prime Minister. At the time she told TalkRadio: “Both candidates have said that no-deal is part of the armoury going forward, and I have accepted that.”

Asked on Tuesday if she could guarantee that a no-deal departure would not cause job losses, Ms Rudd replied: “There are no guarantees about jobs, in or out, under any economic circumstances. What government has to do is to make it as straightforward and as conducive to a good employment arena as possible.”

Ms Rudd said she was ‘comfortable’ with the decisions she had made, adding: “In this job everybody will launch some sort of criticism at whatever decision you’ve made.”

She told ITV: “Everybody has to think very carefully about what they can add to a Cabinet and about what they can support and I’m comfortable with what I’ve decided to do.”

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