Brexit: Opposition wary of tabling no-confidence motion

Parties alert to danger of playing into Boris Johnson’s hands and increasing no-deal risk

Prime minister Boris Johnson gives a thumb up after Sajid Javid’s speech at the Conservative Party conference. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP Photo

Prime minister Boris Johnson gives a thumb up after Sajid Javid’s speech at the Conservative Party conference. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP Photo

 

The UK’s opposition parties have agreed not to table a motion of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s government this week because it would “play into the prime minister’s hands”. But they are discussing how to form a cross-party, caretaker government if they do conclude that toppling the prime minister is necessary to prevent him taking the UK out of the European Union without a deal.

“It is important that we don’t go for a precipitous vote of no confidence motion. It’s understood that, if anything, that would just increase the risk of a no-deal Brexit and therefore play into Boris Johnson’s hands,” Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson said after a meeting of opposition party leaders at Westminster.

Opposition parties will use parliamentary procedures to demand that the government publish documents outlining the impact of a no-deal Brexit on businesses and its worst-case scenario. At the Conservative Party conference on Monday, chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid said the government was ready “to draw on the full armoury of economic policy” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told a fringe meeting at the conference that he believed an improved Brexit deal could win a majority in parliament if it had the support of the DUP and Conservative Brexiteers.

Francois on deal

Hardline Brexiteer Mark Francois, who voted against Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement three times, said he and other holdouts were open to supporting a new withdrawal agreement.

“It has sometimes been said that we will vote against anything regardless. That’s not true. If there is some form of deal, be it over the backstop or anything else, then I and my colleagues will look at it and read it very carefully, because at the end of the day you are talking about international treaty law. So I’ll look at a deal if there is one,” he said.

Mr Johnson denied that the party conference had been overshadowed by allegations about his personal conduct when he was a journalist and when he was mayor of London. Journalist Charlotte Edwardes has accused him of squeezing her thigh and that of another woman during a lunch 20 years ago.

Mary Wakefield, who works at the Spectator and is married to Mr Johnson’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, issued a statement on Monday saying she was not the other woman in the alleged incident.

The prime minister is also facing questions about his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri, an American businesswoman who received public funds when he was mayor.

Mr Johnson has denied Ms Edwardes’s allegation and he said on Monday that the public was not interested in the stories surrounding his personal conduct.

“I think what the public want to hear is what we are doing to bring the country together and get on with improving their lives,” he said.

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