Sir Mike Penning has spoken of his pain at voting against the government in last night’s crunch Brexit vote.
The government suffered a historically heavy defeat when its Brexit deal was rejected by the House Of Commons on Tuesday night.
But Mr Penning, who has been a long-time ally of Prime Minister Theresa May, said his conscience would not have allowed him to support the deal.
He told the Gazette: “I normally sleep like a log, but on Monday night I didn’t sleep at all. But I had to do what I thought was the right thing, and a bad deal isn’t better than no deal.
“I have negotiated with European ministers before, and I know that nothing ever happens until the last minute.”
Mr Penning, who has long been a Eurosceptic and supported Leave during the 2016, stressed that it was important to both respect the referendum result while also respecting those who did not support leaving the European Union.
He pointed to the uncertain status of Northern Ireland - where he served as both a minister and as a member of the armed forces - as a key factor in how he voted.
Mr Penning said: “I felt that the backstop would have resulted in Northern Ireland basically being a separate entity from the rest of the UK, and I could not accept that.
“We need a defined leaving point, and we need to maintain our sovereignty.
“I accept that we need to compromise. Some people don’t accept that - some people on both sides of the argument - but that’s not me.”
Mr Penning added that he would support Theresa May in today’s motion of no confidence brought by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
His prediction is that Tuesday’s vote will strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand in negotiating a new Brexit deal with the EU.
>South West Hertfordshire MP David Gauke declined to comment.