Former cabinet minister Oliver Letwin was behind cross-party efforts to block a no-deal Brexit. The Labour-led attempt to eliminate the possibility of crashing out of the EU without a deal was defeated by 11 votes, after 13 abstained and eight more Labour MPs voted with the government. Despite the efforts of 10 Conservatives who rebelled by voting against the government, the option of a no-deal Brexit is back to haunt us.
Letwin, disappointed, said that the parliament was now out of options to protect the UK from a hard Brexit, after the defeat of Labour’s motion. Talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “We have run out of all the possibilities that any of us can at the moment think of.” Letwin added: “If the government doesn’t bring something before parliament, parliament won’t have a chance to take a view on that.” For him, it was impossible that Tory MPs would vote against the government to prevent a no deal scenario. Letwin said: “Evidently that’s not something any of us want to do. I’m not confident as things stand that the current Labour leadership would know how to solve this crisis either.” Letwin also expressed that he was not sure whether Boris Johnson was a “no-deal Brexiteer” but he did admit that Johnson was “clearly quite likely” the next prime minister.
Another former Conservative MP, Nick Boles, who voted with Labour on Wednesday, was vocal about the lack of options on the horizon in terms of a no-deal Brexit and said that the only alternative was a confidence vote to bring down the government. He said: “No-deal Brexit on 31 October is back to being a racing certainty. It is very hard to see where any further legislative opportunities will come from. So it’s now a question of politics – specifically whether a PM pursuing a no-deal Brexit can command and sustain the confidence of the House of Commons.”
Government victory: Is no-deal still an option?
Leading candidate to be Britain’s next prime minister, Boris Johnson, said that he will try to have a deal in place, but he did not explain what he would do if he could not come to an agreement with Brussels. Nonetheless, he supports leaving exactly on the appointed deadline, on 31 October, with or without a deal.
As many have argued, including Boles, the only remaining option is to bring down the government. Even former attorney general and Conservative Dominic Grieve agreed that he would vote against the government in a no-confidence motion, if someone like Boris Johnson tried to take the UK out of the EU without a deal. He said: “If we get to a point where a prime minister is intent on doing this [taking the UK out of the EU without a deal], the only way of stopping that prime minister would be to bring down that prime minister’s government. And I simply have to say here and now I will not hesitate to do that if that is what is attempted, even if it means my resigning the whip and leaving the party.” Chancellor, Philip Hammond, also suggested he might act similarly. In the possibility that the government loses a no-confidence vote, alternative leaders would only have two weeks to assemble a parliamentary majority, otherwise, a general election must be called.
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The pound fell after Labour’s motion was defeated, while markets tried to digest Boris Johnson’s campaign which was launched officially on Wednesday.
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