Brexit: Labour will consider all options to stop no-deal ‘disaster’, says Corbyn

Labour leader will sit down with other opposition parties to discuss parliamentary tactics to block no-deal

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 27 August 2019 07:37 BST
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Jeremy Corbyn vows to do 'everything necessary' to stop no-deal Brexit

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Labour is ready to consider all options to “stop the no-deal Brexit disaster in its tracks”, Jeremy Corbyn has declared, as he prepares to meet leaders of other opposition parties to discuss parliamentary tactics to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU on 31 October.

Writing in The Independent, the Labour leader said he would do “everything necessary” to stop no deal and called on other opposition parties to establish a “good working arrangement” to bring on board MPs from across parliament to block Boris Johnson’s plans.

He warned that the prime minister’s “do or die” commitment to quit the EU on Halloween with or without a deal would result in a “no-deal bankers’ Brexit”, with hedge funds and US corporations taking the opportunity to make profits at the expense of the mass of British voters.

Accusing the PM of “cosying up” to US president Donald Trump, he said that a no-deal outcome would leave the UK “at the mercy of Trump and the big US corporations dying to get their teeth into our NHS, sound the death knell for our steel industry and strip back our food standards and animal welfare protections”.

And he said that the “chaos and uncertainty” of no deal would be a “potential goldmine” for billionaire Tory donors who could be expected to make money from an expected slump in the value of sterling by betting against the pound.

The “super-rich” backers of no-deal would use the crisis to mount an attack on workplace rights, consumer protections and cut taxes and regulations on banks and corporations, he said.

“The battle to stop no-deal Brexit isn’t a struggle between those who want to leave the EU and those who want continued membership,” said Mr Corbyn. “It’s a battle of the many against the few who are hijacking the referendum result to shift even more power and wealth towards those at the top.

“That’s why the Labour Party will do everything necessary to stop a no-deal bankers’ Brexit.”

However, given the divisions the issue of Brexit has created across parliament, Mr Corbyn may find the task of bringing together opposition parties difficult.

“We want an injection of democracy so the people can decide our country’s future,” Mr Corbyn said. “That could come either by Johnson having the courage of his convictions to test his no-deal plans in a referendum or through a general election. In that election, Labour will offer a referendum, with a credible leave option as well as the option to remain. Labour believes the decision on how to resolve the Brexit crisis must now go back to the people to have legitimacy.

“But we won’t rule out other options that could stop this no-deal disaster in its tracks,” he said. I’ll discuss all these options with the leaders of other opposition parties today. I hope we can come to a good working arrangement and bring on board others across parliament who see the danger of a no-deal crashout.”

Mr Corbyn’s proposal that he could lead a time-limited government of national unity to extend Brexit negotiations won a lukewarm response earlier this month, with a number of potential Tory rebels saying they would not join any move which could lead to the installation of the Labour leader in 10 Downing Street.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson wrote to Mr Corbyn warning that he risked scuppering a no-confidence vote against Johnson if he insisted on claiming the role of prime minister in his place. She said a less divisive figurehead, such as Tory former chancellor Ken Clarke or Labour’s mother of the House, Harriet Harman, would have more chance of maximising no-confidence numbers after the Commons returns from its summer break on 3 September.

Alternative proposals likely to be discussed at the meeting include a plan for MPs to take control of the Commons timetable to pass legislation barring Mr Johnson from forcing through no deal without a parliamentary vote.

Ms Swinson will be among senior opposition MPs, also including representatives of the Scottish National Party, Change UK, Greens and Plaid Cymru, sitting down with Mr Corbyn in Westminster at noon on Tuesday. Tory opponents of no deal including Dominic Grieve and Dame Caroline Spelman – as well as Independent Conservative Nick Boles – were also invited by the Labour leader but are not expected to attend.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson (AFP/Getty)

“Our country is heading into a crisis this autumn, with Boris Johnson’s Tories driving us towards a no-deal cliff edge,” said Mr Corbyn. “No deal would destroy people’s jobs, push up food prices in the shops and open our NHS to takeover by US private corporations.

“We will do everything necessary to stop a disastrous no deal, for which this government has no mandate. That’s why today I am hosting a meeting of opposition parties to discuss how we can stop Johnson’s reckless rush for a no-deal Brexit. The stakes couldn’t be higher.”

Joining Mr Corbyn at Tuesday’s meeting beside Ms Swinson will be the SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Green MP Caroline Lucas, Change UK leader and former Tory MP Anna Soubry and Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts.

Speaking on Monday before Mr Corbyn’s latest remarks, the former prime minister Gordon Brown said that he believed that Brexit could be stopped without a no-confidence vote.

“I believe the MPs are meeting to discuss what they should do and the obvious thing to do is for them to agree to take over the business of the House of Commons for a day, Mr Brown told the Edinburgh International Book Festival. “[Then] pass a law that says that the government cannot go ahead with a no-deal Brexit until a report has been prepared on the consequences of a no deal.

“You could get a majority in the House of Commons for that, and I believe that would stop it dead in its tracks. Then we’d be able to talk seriously about what is the best relationship between Britain and Europe, because none of the long-term relationships have been sorted out by Mrs May’s deal, by anybody else’s proposal so far. But the starting point is stopping no deal.”

Mr Brown also said that it would not be essential to have a general election to prevent a no-deal Brexit. “And the reason I’m saying you can do this is that under the standing orders of the House of Commons, you can take over the business, MPs can vote by a majority to take over the business from the government for a day,” he said.

“You can then put a bill into that debate in that day that says, ‘Until you’ve satisfied ourselves that a no-deal Brexit does not have adverse economic consequences or social consequences for the people of this country, you cannot go ahead with a no-deal Brexit.

“You could pass that law immediately and that law would be binding on the government. So it is possible to do this.

“The problem is that the Conservative MPs who are against Brexit, the Liberal MPs, the SNP MPs, the Labour MPs, have found it very difficult to find something around which they can unite.”

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