No-deal Brexit: Boris Johnson to be hit by dozens of new Tory rebels

LONDON — Dozens more Conservative MPs are set to join the ranks of those determined to prevent Britain’s next prime minister from forcing through a no-deal Brexit later this year.

Pro-European Conservative rebels anticipate a significant boost to their numbers when the next Conservative leader, likely to be the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, enters Downing Street.

Johnson has said that any member of his Cabinet “must be reconciled” to the possibility of leaving without a deal on October 31, in order to remain in government.

This means there is likely to be an exodus of Remain-voting ministers, meaning that large numbers of potential rebels, including heavyweights such as the current Chancellor Philip Hammond and even Theresa May herself, could soon join the ranks of no-deal Brexit rebels.

“Are we deflated? No,” one former Conservative minister, turned rebel, told Business Insider.

“Fifty people are about to be sacked. Our numbers are going to increase.

“Fifty people are about to be sacked. Our numbers are going to increase.

The numbers will be there [to prevent no-deal] and the opportunities will be there.”

BBC Newsnight reported this week that there was a “gloomy atmosphere” among Conservative MPs who are hoping to stop a no-deal Brexit, given the trenchant comments on the issue made in recent weeks by both leading candidates for the job.

However, Conservative rebels told Business Insider that they were expecting a boost because dozens of MPs are about to be removed from the government payroll, freeing them up to rebel against the government whip.

Those prospective rebels include at least four serving Cabinet ministers, including Rory Stewart, the international development secretary, and David Gauke, the Justice Secretary.

Plans within the group to oppose a no-deal are being spearheaded by the Chancellor Philip Hammond, with MPs meeting in his office to discuss their best approach Sky News reports.

Hammond this week warned the next prime minister that parliament could and “should” be able to find a way of blocking no deal.

“The House Commons has been clear that it does not support a no-deal exit,” he said.

“Given that we have an activist speaker, given there is a parliamentary majority against no deal, a way will be found.”

Other pro-European ministers have been signalling that they would support efforts to prevent no-deal.

Theresa May last week hinted she would vote against a future prime minister who attempted to leave the UK with no deal, having become increasingly worried that such a move would precipitate the breakup of the United Kingdom.

David Gauke told the House magazine this week that parliament would ultimately find a way to prevent a no-deal.

Sam Gyimah, one of the 10 Tory MPs who voted against the government to try and take no-deal off the table in June, told BBC Newsnight on Thursday: “There are an increasing number of MPs who are alarmed at the prospect of no deal and are getting together to work out a number of options to be able to stop no deal.”

The plot to stop a no-deal Brexit

Conservative party leader Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond take questions during a general election campaign event in East London.
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

At least two plans to prevent no deal are currently under consideration, both of which would see MPs make a last-ditch attempt to prevent no deal just days before the October 31 exit deadline.

The first plan, discussed by one Conservative MP with Business Insider, would see a cross-party effort to amend the legislation which would be needed to introduce to mitigate the short-term disruption of leaving the EU.

Opposition MPs could join forces with Tory rebels to amend the legislation with clauses that forced the government to seek an extension, for example.

“Once the decision to leave with no deal has been made, any prime minister would have to introduce dozens of bills to mitigate day one impact,” said the Tory MP.

Both Johnson and Hunt would likely introduce an emergency budget before pushing a no-deal Brexit, which would be an opportunity to introduce amendments, the MP said.

The plan is seen as attractive because colleagues would be more inclined to support a cross-party amendment to a government bill than the motion tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in June.

“Lots of MPs that time were coming up to me and saying, “I have a re-selection meeting coming up, I can’t support a Corbyn motion”,” the MP said.

The second plan, reported by BBC Newsnight on Thursday, is to table a conditional motion of no confidence in the government. The vote would be amended to say parliament had confidence in the government if within seven days it introduced legislation to block no-deal.

That would allow ministers to avoid bringing down the government entirely, but is seen as difficult because it would require co-operation from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who could resist efforts to water down a confidence vote.


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