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Brexit news: Ken Clarke prepared to be caretaker PM as senior Tory rebels join Swinson in rejecting Corbyn

The latest developments from Westminster and beyond

Adam Forrest
Friday 16 August 2019 21:57
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Jo Swinson asks Corbyn for caretaker PM 'suggestions'

Tory veteran Ken Clarke has said he is willing to be a prime minister to stop a no-deal Brexit after he was nominated by the Liberal Democrats.

"I wouldn't reject it, if it was the judgement of people that it was the only way forward,” he said.

It follows criticism over Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson’​s rejection of Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to lead a caretaker government. The Labour leader said it was “not up to Jo Swinson” who becomes the next PM.

Senior Tory rebel Dominic Grieve, meanwhile, said he would “not facilitate” having Mr Corbyn at No 10 temporarily.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of events at Westminster and beyond.

Adam Forrest16 August 2019 08:47
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Jo Swinson has claimed she “always” wanted to reach out to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to work against a no-deal Brexit after writing to him and offering to meet.

“I’ve always said I wanted to talk to him about it and I think that dialogue is really important between anyone who wants to stop a no-deal Brexit,” she told the Today programme.

But she did not shift her refusal to support his plan to lead a caretaker government after bringing Boris Johnson down with a vote of no-confidence, saying “the numbers don’t stack up” for him in the Commons.

“The people in No 10 – Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings – they will be rubbing their hands that we are talking about a plan has no chance of success.”

Swinson also said Tory grandee Ken Clarke and former Labour leader Harriet Harman are both prepared to lead an emergency government to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

She said: “I have been in touch with them because obviously you don’t just mention people's names without checking that they’re OK with that.

“I mean, both of those are long-serving Members of Parliament, the most experienced MPs in the House, the mother and father of the House as they are called in the House of Commons."

“It doesn’t need to be them. If Jeremy Corbyn has got another suggestion of an experienced MP who has that respect across the House, let’s talk about it.”

Adam Forrest16 August 2019 08:47
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Nicola Sturgeon said Jo Swinson’s current position was “daft” at an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event on Thursday.

“I think that’s daft frankly for someone who professes to be so against Brexit. On the remain, anti-no deal Brexit side, we should be looking at all options and I’m not prepared to rule out anything before we’ve had the opportunity to explore it.”

“It doesn’t make me a great fan of Jeremy Corbyn, I can’t envisage a formal coalition between the SNP and Labour, but I would always try to work to put together an alternative to a Tory government.”

She added: “There are different ways that can be achieved. What Jeremy Corbyn has said today is by no means the only option.

“That is one way of potentially avoiding a no-deal Brexit, it’s not the only one. My view is that the consequences and the implications of a no-deal are so severe that we should be exploring all options and we shouldn't be ruling anything out.”

Adam Forrest16 August 2019 08:53
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Adam Forrest16 August 2019 08:55
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Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng said he could not see Tory grandee Ken Clarke leading an emergency government despite claims by Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson he would be prepared to take on the role.

“I’m a great fan of Ken Clarke,” the Tory MP told the Today programme.

He added: “I’m 44 years old, he was an MP before I was born, he’s been around for a long time, he’s very experienced. I think it would be an odd thing for him to lead a unity government you know, I think he’s nearly 80.”

“Frankly, I don’t think that’s likely. I think we will continue as a government. I don’t think that the Labour Party has the numbers for a no-confidence vote, and what we have to focus on is delivering Brexit on 31 October.

“All of this seems to me like speculation about Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman and all these people. I don’t see them leading a government. I think we have a prime minister and we’ll deliver on the mandate and the referendum of 2016.”

Adam Forrest16 August 2019 09:02
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Here’s Jo Swinson putting forward Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman as potential caretaker PMs on the Today programme.

Adam Forrest16 August 2019 09:04
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Jeremy Corbyn is visiting an alternative technology centre in Wales today to trumpet his party’s green policies. The Labour leader is vowing to turn the government’s “failed approach” to tackling climate change on its head with a “green industrial revolution” if he becomes PM.

The Labour leader said his party would create hundreds of thousands of “good green jobs” across the UK and save “millions of households” money on their energy bills.

Labour said the government’s decision to cancel an insulation programme - the Warm Front Scheme - in 2013 has cost households a total of £3.7 billion on their bills.

And the party, citing analysis of House of Commons Library data, said it had cost the planet an extra 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 by 2017.

“They cost millions of people hundreds of pounds and damaged our environment,” said Corbyn.

“The next Labour government will turn this failed approach on its head with a Green Industrial Revolution to tackle the climate emergency, create hundreds of thousands of good green jobs in every region and nation of our country and save millions of households money on their bills.”

Adam Forrest16 August 2019 09:18
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Boris Johnson’s Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay is set to sign an order that will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 to confirm Britain’s formal withdrawal from the EU after 31 October, according to The Times.

There’s some scepticism about the significance of the move, which appears largely symbolic. Maddy Thimont Jack, of the Institute for Government, said it might send a “strong political message” but said “legally this changes very little”.

Steve “Brexit hardman” Baker MP insisted it was “totemic” and “not merely “symbolic”. Fellow Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash said: “It’s not symbolic, it is definitive in law.”

Adam Forrest16 August 2019 09:34
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Labour MP Clive Lewis has written a piece for us explaining why Jo Swinson’s refusal to explore Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to bring down Boris Johnson is “so utterly ridiculous”.

Adam Forrest16 August 2019 09:38
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Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng, who is visiting the National Electricity Control Room today, said it is “extremely unlikely” there will be more power cuts like the one which affected much of the south east last week.

“I think it is extremely unlikely that it’ll happen again,” Kwarteng said.

“It was a once-in-a-10-year event and what happened was unacceptable, and the thing that concerned me particularly about last week was not the failure of the two generators in itself, but the knock-on effects.

“The fact that once those two generators, power stations have failed, the commuters and many people across the south east were affected, and that is what I want to look at, that’s the resilience of the system that needs to be investigated.”

Kwarteng said it would be “premature” to conclude what action is needed, but said the government “will certainly be looking to improve the system”.

Adam Forrest16 August 2019 09:49

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