BOURNEMOUTH East MP and government minister Tobias Ellwood defied his party by abstaining from the vote that ruled out a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances.

The junior defence minister was in the company of four cabinet ministers in defying a three-line whip.

Traditionally, a minister who went against a three-line whip would lose their government job. But it has been reported that ministers understood they could keep their posts if they abstained rather than voting against the government.

Mr Ellwood has repeatedly warned against leaving the European Union without a deal.

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, justice secretary David Gauke, business secretary Greg Clark and Scottish secretary David Mundell all abstained.

It was reported that ministers who voted against the government were told they would be sacked, but ministers abstaining were given to understand they could stay.

West Dorset MP Sir Oliver Letwin voted for the amended motion ruling out a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances.

North Dorset's Simon Hoare was among the abstainers. 

Voting against were Conor Burns (Bournemouth West), Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole), Robert Syms (Poole), Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) and Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West).