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Brexit: More than 200 MPs urge May to rule out no deal as Johnson dismisses ‘downright apocalyptic’ warnings

Former foreign secretary says leaving on WTO terms is closest to what people voted for in EU referendum

Will Kirby
Monday 07 January 2019 02:32 GMT
Chuka Umunna: 'We will not stand for a no-deal scenario and we're not going to allow her to delay this vote further'

More than 200 MPs from across the Commons have signed a letter to the prime minister urging her to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

The letter, which has been signed by both Leave and Remain supporters, was organised by the former Conservative cabinet minister Dame Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey.

Dame Caroline told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “Crashing out of the EU without a deal will cause job losses and bring to an end the renaissance of manufacturing that we’ve seen in regions like mine in the West Midlands, and both Jack Dromey and I know the human interest and impact of this.”

All signatories to the letter have been invited to meet Theresa May in Downing Street on Tuesday. The prime minister is also hosting drinks receptions for Tory MPs on Monday and Wednesday as part of a charm offensive to win support for the Brexit deal.

While the letter does not bind the signatories to supporting the prime minister’s deal, Dame Caroline said it offers a “platform” which would stabilise the economy and offer reassurance to businesses.

“We are united on one thing – we want to protect jobs and livelihoods by making sure we don’t crash out without a deal,” she said.

“If parliament gives expression to not wanting to crash out without a deal, it means effort has got to be renewed to find an agreement which is acceptable to a majority of parliamentarians.

“Taking a step back and at least agreeing we’re not going to crash out without a deal means that on 29 March we’re not just going to fall over the cliff edge.”

Ms May has warned that the UK will be in “uncharted territory” if the deal is rejected in the vote, expected on 15 January.

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However, the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has dismissed warnings against a no-deal Brexit, branding them “downright apocalyptic” while claiming leaving the EU without an agreement in place is an outcome “that is by some margin preferred by the British public”.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said: ”We must hope that Theresa May really does remove the backstop from the withdrawal agreement, in such a way as to give real legal protection to the UK.

“Failing that, we should approach the challenge of leaving on WTO terms in a way that is realistic and sensible, but also with the optimism and self-confidence displayed by the majority of the British public.”

He said the UK “didn’t vote for anything like Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement”, adding: ”It is no deal or WTO terms that actually corresponds to their idea of coming out, and they view that option with a confidence that is now directly proportional to the growing strength of the government’s warnings against it.”

The prime minister’s hopes of getting her deal through parliament were dealt another blow on Sunday as it emerged parliamentary rules will prevent her bulldozing her Brexit deal through by staging multiple repeat votes until the Commons surrenders.

The tactic – increasingly seen as the prime minister’s only hope of rescuing her unpopular agreement – is explicitly barred by procedures to stop the government bullying the legislature, they say.

Additional reporting by agencies

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