Politicians trying to block no-deal making it more likely, says Johnson

John Major joins legal fight to block suspension of UK parliament

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has claimed that the more MPs try to block a no-deal Brexit, the more likely it is that Britain will crash out of the European Union without a deal. Video: Reuters

 

Politicians who are seeking to block a no-deal Brexit are making it more likely that Britain leaves the European Union without a deal, British prime minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.

Mr Johnson has pledged that Britain will leave the EU on October 31st, either with or without a deal, and has said that keeping a no-deal Brexit on the table strengthens Britain’s hand in seeking a new deal with the bloc.

“The more the parliamentarians try to block the no-deal Brexit, the more likely it is that we’ll end up in that situation,” Mr Johnson told the BBC.

Earlier former British prime minister John Major asked to join legal action to try to block Mr Johnson from suspending parliament before Brexit.

Mr Major, prime minister from 1990 to 1997, said he would join anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller in pursuing a judicial review of the order to close parliament from mid September to mid October.

“In view of the imminence of the prorogation – and to avoid duplication of effort, and taking up the Court’s time through repetition – I intend to seek the Court’s permission to intervene in the claim already initiated by Gina Miller, rather than to commence separate proceedings,” Mr Major said.

“If granted permission to intervene, I intend to seek to assist the court from the perspective of having served in government as a minister and prime minister,” he said in a statement.

John Major: “I intend to seek to assist the court from the perspective of having served in government as a minister and prime minister.” Photograph: Tom Honan
John Major: “I intend to seek to assist the court from the perspective of having served in government as a minister and prime minister.” Photograph: Tom Honan

Ms Miller said the hearing would take place next Thursday.

Separately, a Scottish judge on Friday temporarily rejected calls to block Mr Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament, in a blow to anti-Brexit campaigners.

Lord Doherty said he would not rule definitively that the prime minister had the powers to ask the queen to prorogue parliament. It was claimed during an emergency court hearing on Thursday that Mr Johnson was acting illegally and in breach of the constitution.

Lord Doherty said: “I’m not satisfied that it has been demonstrated that there’s a need for an interim suspension or an interim interdict to be granted at this stage.

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“I’m going to move the substantive hearing forward to Tuesday. Weighing consideration in the balance, it’s in the interest of justice that it proceeds sooner rather than later.”

Meanwhile, a victims campaigner in Northern Ireland has vowed to pursue a legal bid to block the suspension of parliament. Raymond McCord’s case did not proceed in Belfast High Court on Friday morning as he had anticipated. Northern Ireland’s top judge — Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan — instead told Mr McCord that if he wanted to press the matter a judge would decide on Monday if the case should be heard later next week. Outside court, Mr McCord said: “We are still going to pursue an injunction next week for Boris Johnson to reverse the advice he gave to the Queen.”

Commons challenge

The prime minister has ordered a suspension of parliament for up to five weeks before a Queen’s Speech on October 14th, but Tory rebels and opposition leaders believe there is still enough time to get a measure to prevent a no-deal Brexit on October 31st through both Houses nex week.

Opposition leaders in the Commons have agreed to seek a legislative change when MPs return to Westminster on Tuesday.

Tory rebel ringleader Sir Oliver Letwin said he had been in talks with speaker John Bercow about the parliamentary procedures that will apply.

The former minister said he believes “there probably is time” to get a measure to block a no-deal Brexit through parliament despite the temporary shutdown which will begin in the second week of September.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it would be “foolhardy” to predict the outcome of any votes, but added: “I know that there are a number of my colleagues who feel as I do, that a disorderly no-deal exit is a very bad idea, and they have in the past been willing to come and support efforts to prevent that happening and I very much hope that will happen again.”

Sir Oliver said the move could force Mr Johnson to delay Brexit beyond the October 31st deadline unless there is a withdrawal agreement with Brussels.

And he rejected claims that the measure would weaken the government’s hand in negotiations with Brussels.

On the Labour side, shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti said: “My own soundings and those of colleagues in discussions over the last couple of days, in particular since the constitutional outrage, give me greater comfort that minds are now focused, especially on the Conservative side.”

She told Today there were ways of preventing filibusters and “any sort of public school dirty tricks” aimed at blocking legislation when it reaches the Lords.

But Mr Johnson’s de facto deputy dismissed the furore over the prorogation move.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “The idea this is some kind of constitutional outrage is nonsense.

“It’s actually lawful, it’s perfectly proper, there is precedent for it and, actually, fundamentally, for the people watching this, they want to see that we are leaving the EU but also talking about all the other things they expect us to be addressing.”

‘Step up the tempo’

The prospect of an explosive Commons battle next week came as Mr Johnson called for both the UK and EU to “step up the tempo” in talks.

Downing Street said the UK’s team of Brexit negotiators will sit down with their EU counterparts twice a week during September “with the possibility of additional technical meetings, to discuss a way forward on securing a new deal”.

Anti-Brexit activists demonstrate opposite the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on Thursday. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-Brexit activists demonstrate opposite the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on Thursday. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

But Tánaiste Simon Coveney, said that so far the UK had not put forward any “credible” alternatives to the backstop – the contingency plan aimed at preventing a hard border with the UK.

“If that changes, great, we will look at it in Dublin, but more importantly it can be the basis of a discussion in Brussels.

“But it has got to be credible. It can’t simply be this notion that ‘Look, we must have the backstop removed and we will solve this problem in the future negotiation’ without any credible way of doing that.

“That’s not going to fly and it’s important that we are all honest about that.” – Agencies

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