Brexit: UK faces ‘full blown constitutional crisis’ if no deal forced through

Boris Johnson accused of acting like Stuart king with ‘divine right to rule’ after Downing Street says UK leaving EU whatever the circumstances

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 05 August 2019 19:28
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Matt Hancock says parliament now can't stop no-deal Brexit

Downing Street has sparked warnings of a “full blown constitutional crisis” by asserting that the UK will leave the European Union on 31 October “whatever the circumstances”.

The comment appeared to confirm reports that Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser Dominic Cummings believes the PM will be able to force through no deal even if the House of Commons votes to bring down his government.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn set the scene for an attempt to oust Mr Johnson as soon as MPs return from their summer break on 3 September, saying he will call a “very early” no-confidence vote at a time “when we can win it”.

But reports suggested that Mr Cummings has told Number 10 insiders that the PM could respond by simply calling an election in November, keeping MPs away from parliament in the weeks before the UK crashes out on Halloween.

Prominent Tory opponent of no deal Dominic Grieve dismissed the idea, telling The Independent: “The suggestion that Mr Johnson can stay in office after a vote of no confidence if an alternative administration is capable of taking office is complete and total nonsense.”

And former foreign minister Alistair Burt, who quit the government over Brexit, said: “Boris Johnson is a parliamentarian, he effectively leads parliament, I would hope he would respect parliamentary opinion.

“There is a clear majority in parliament of MPs who want to leave with a deal. That is where the government’s efforts should be directed.”

Mr Johnson was accused of behaving like a Stuart monarch who believes in his own “divine right to rule”, after his official spokesperson declined to confirm that the PM would respect the outcome of any vote by MPs to block a no-deal Brexit.

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson, told The Independent: “By threatening to disregard votes in parliament, the government are careering towards a full-blown constitutional crisis.

“There is a word for a prime minister who dismisses parliamentary democracy – a dictator.”

Dominic Cummings has reportedly said the PM will be able to force through a no deal

And Labour MP Stephen Doughty, a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said: “It is more than 320 years since the question of whether parliament or the executive is sovereign was settled, and parliament won.

“Instead of impersonating Stuart monarchs and claiming a divine right to rule, the prime minister and his retinue should recognise they have to submit to democracy and have no right to impose no deal or any vicious Brexit on us.”

Speculation is mounting in Westminster that the PM is planning an early election framed as a battle of “the people against the politicians”.

But Mr Johnson insisted that “the last thing I want to do is call another election”.

Asked during a visit to Lincolnshire whether he was preparing to fight a general election based on Labour winning a confidence vote, Mr Johnson said: “No. The answer is no.

“The people of the UK voted in the election 2015, they had a referendum in 2016, and another election in 2017. They want us to deliver what they asked for – and that is for us to leave the EU.”

Challenged at a regular Westminster media briefing over whether the PM agreed it was now too late for MPs to stop no deal, Mr Johnson’s spokesperson said: “The UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October, whatever the circumstances. There are no ifs or buts.

“We must restore trust in our democracy and fulfil the repeated promises of parliament to the people by coming out of the EU on 31 October.

“Politicians cannot choose which votes to respect. They promised to respect the referendum result and we must do.”

The spokesperson refused to respond to repeated calls to confirm whether Mr Johnson would respect the result of a vote in parliament to block no deal or to express no confidence in him as PM, saying only that he would not engage in “a hypothetical game”.

Jeremy Corbyn meets residents of flood-threatened Whaley Bridge yesterday

Speaking on a visit to Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire, Mr Corbyn said: “We will do everything to stop no deal including a no confidence vote at the appropriate very early time to do it.”

He added: “The prime minister seems to be trying to slip no deal through, slip past Parliament and slip past the British people.

“I’m sorry, it’s not on, it’s not acceptable. We will do everything we can to block it.”

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