Brexit: Clarke and Harman ‘willing’ to form emergency government

Signs that opponents of no-deal Brexit joining forces to unseat Boris Johnson to stop it

Ready to serve: Kenneth Clarke. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/File Photo/Reuters

Ready to serve: Kenneth Clarke. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/File Photo/Reuters


Veteran Tory and Labour MPs have both said they would be willing to lead an emergency government to halt a no-deal Brexit, the leader of the Liberal Democrats said on Friday.

The suggestion that either Conservative Kenneth Clarke or Labour’s Harriet Harman – parliament’s longest-serving man and woman – could take charge was the latest sign that opponents of a no-deal Brexit are joining forces to unseat Boris Johnson to stop it.

The prime minister says the UK must leave the EU on October 31st with or without a deal. But he has a working majority of just a single seat in parliament, and several Conservatives have suggested they could vote for no confidence in his government to stop a no-deal Brexit they believe would be disastrous for the economy.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants a caretaker government with himself as head, and then an election. But other opponents of a no-deal Brexit worry that Mr Corbyn would not have enough support from across the aisle to form a government.

Lib Dems leader Jo Swinson has proposed a caretaker government led by either Mr Clarke or Ms Harman, former cabinet ministers from the centrist wings of the two main parties.

On Friday Ms Swinson told BBC radio she had spoken to both of them, and both said they would be willing to serve.

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“They put public duty first and they don’t want to see a no-deal Brexit,” Ms Swinson said. “If the House of Commons asks them to lead an emergency government to get our country out of this Brexit mess and to stop us driving off that cliff to a no-deal, then yes, they are prepared to do that.”

Parliamentary showdown

Mr Clarke is the longest-serving member of parliament and held senior cabinet positions under Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron. Ms Harman was briefly Labour’s acting leader before Jeremy Corbyn took charge.

With Mr Johnson staking his premiership on delivering Brexit, the EU refusing to reopen the withdrawal agreement and a majority of MPs opposed to no-deal, the UK is heading for a parliamentary showdown and possible constitutional crisis.

Mr Corbyn said that when a government collapses, by convention the leader of the main opposition party is called upon to form a government.

“The principle is that the Labour Party is the main opposition party. We’ve an aspiration to go into government ... We are ready to serve,” he told the BBC.

He said “all those people that are now making lots of noises in the media” should support Labour’s motion as the best way to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Labour wants a vote of no-confidence in the government shortly after parliament returns from its summer break on September 3rd. Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News the government would win such a vote.

“I don’t see Jeremy Corbyn being able to come together with the numbers, nor do I see any prospect of him leading a so-called national unity government,” he said.

“He’s the most unpopular leader of the opposition we’ve ever had and the idea that he’s going to lead a unity government I think is ridiculous.” – Reuters