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Brexit: British MPs agree strategy to block any Johnson bid for a no-deal exit

The Labour Party’s John McDonnell called Boris Johnson a danger to democracy.

John McDonnell and Ian Blackford committed to continue meeting as an alternative House of Commons if Boris Johnson temporarily shuts down parliament.
John McDonnell and Ian Blackford committed to continue meeting as an alternative House of Commons if Boris Johnson temporarily shuts down parliament.
Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

Updated Aug 27th 2019, 7:55 PM

A CROSS-PARTY MEETING of British MPs have agreed to work together to force through legislation to prevent a no-deal departure from the EU. 

In a display of unity, leaders and MPs from a range of parties – bar the Conservatives – came together to agree a strategy against a no-deal Brexit and to form an alternative parliament if UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson does try and prorogue parliament. 

During a meeting at Church House – where MPs met during WWII – shadow chancellor John McDonnell issued a warning to Johnson of the dangers of trying to pursue a no-deal Brexit against the will of parliament. 

“Prime ministers come and prime ministers go but I don’t think we have seen a prime minister like this who has had the potential to threaten the very nature of our democracy,” he said. 

Caroline Lucas of the Green Party and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, as well as former Tory Anna Soubry, joined McDonnell to agree on a plan for the coming weeks as fears grow over Johnson’s hardline approach to Brexit. 

In an interview with the BBC this evening, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said an agreement had been reached to try to use legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit, as opposed to immediately triggering a no-confidence vote in Johnson.

“The motion of no confidence will be put, by me, at an appropriate time. But obviously not the first item next Tuesday because I believe it is important that we get on with a legislative process which prevents the prime minister acting in defiance of the will of parliament,” Corbyn said. 

Earlier today, Corbyn had “productive and detailed” meetings with the opposition parties about how they would work together to block a no-deal Brexit.

The Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Independent Group for Change released a joint-statement this afternoon expressing concern over UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s threats to use “anti-democratic means” to force through a no-deal.

The attendees agreed on the urgency to act together to find practical ways to prevent no deal, including the possibility of passing legislation and a vote of no confidence. 

Corbyn had planned to call a no-confidence vote in Johnson as soon as possible and would be ready to lead a caretaker government to delay Brexit if he wins that vote.

But those plans have been put to one side as he instead prioritises legislation that would block a no-deal Brexit. The SNP’s Ian Blackford said this evening that the UK faces an “enormous challenge”.

Blackford said that the parties had “laid our differences at the door, because we recognise the scale of the challenge that collectively we face. And woe betide anyone who doesn’t work in a collective fashion”. 

Ahead of the cross-party talks, Corbyn warned about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

Corbyn wrote in the Independent that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “cosying up to” US President Donald Trump “because a No Deal Brexit is really a Trump Deal Brexit”.

The UK parliament is not due to resume until next week but anti-Brexit politicians have been discussing plans ever since Johnson came to power last month vowing to take Britain out of the EU on 31 October deal or no deal.

Johnson has said he is hoping for a deal with EU leaders.

Today, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker told Johnson in a phone call that the UK alone will be to blame for a no-deal Brexit. 

“He recalled that while the EU is fully prepared for a ‘no-deal’ scenario, it will do everything it can to avoid such a situation,” the commission said in a statement outlining the call.

“A ‘no-deal’ scenario will only ever be the UK’s decision, not the EU’s.”

The political impasse has raised the chances of a general election and politicians of all stripes are preparing.

The Brexit Party, which came first in European elections earlier this year and which advocates a no-deal Brexit, is presenting its candidates at a launch event later.

The UK voted to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum but has been forced to delay its exit twice after parliament opposed a deal struck with Brussels under Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party will do anything to try and block delivering the change that British people voted for in the referendum,” the Conservatives said in a statement.

“Only Boris Johnson and the Conservatives can provide the leadership the UK needs to deliver Brexit by 31 October, whatever the circumstances,” the statement said.

© – AFP 2019, with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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