Philip Hammond slams Boris Johnson’s ‘aggressive’ threats to Tory rebels ahead of crunch Brexit vote


Boris Johnson is facing a titanic battle to stop MPs blocking No Deal Brexit in a Commons showdown tonight with Tory rebels vowing defiance.

The PM is engaged in a desperate last-ditch effort to pick off Remainers ahead of the crucial vote, which could define the future of the country for decades.

But rebels insisted they will not back down despite warnings of deselection and Mr Johnson’s explosive threat to call a snap election for October 14.

More than a dozen are still expected to vote against the government this evening on the cross-party bid to seize control of Commons business and pass legislation ruling out No Deal.

In a challenge to the PM, Philip Hammond was reselected in Runnymede and Weybridge by executive members of the Conservative Association at a private meeting last night.

And today he slammed the government’s ‘aggressive’ tactics, saying the PM will have the ‘fight of a lifetime’ if he tries to deselect him. ‘I am going to support the Bill… I think we have the numbers,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He also launched an excoriating attack on maverick No10 Brexit chief Dominic Cummings. ‘This is my party, I am going to defend my party against people who are at the heart of this government who care nothing about the future of the Conservative party,’ he said. 

Former Cabinet minister Justine Greening pre-empted punishment for siding with Remainers by announcing she will not stand as a Tory candidate again. 

But she said she would still represent the interests of her constituents in Putney by joining the rebel alliance tonight.  

In a dramatic statement on the steps of Downing Street last night, Mr Johnson insisted he ‘does not want’ an election, but warned that rebels would ‘chop the legs’ from the Government’s EU negotiations if they side with Jeremy Corbyn. 

Rebels have accused Mr Johnson of using the election to try and ‘purge’ Tory opponents of No Deal and turn the party into a Eurosceptic vehicle.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd today warned against taking action against ‘very valued colleagues who made a very different choice’.

‘We should consider carefully the consequences of dividing the party. But I do support he PM in his commitment… to get a deal,’ she told reporters outside her London home.

Senior Government sources have confirmed Mr Johnson will table a motion to schedule a general election for October 14 if MPs back the cross-party move to seize control of Commons business. 

However, he would need a two-third majority in the House to force a poll, and despite Jeremy Corbyn saying he was ‘delighted’ by the prospect, it is unclear if Labour will back the idea.

Many MPs are concerned that Mr Johnson would have discretion over the date, and want to pass the No Deal legislation – which would demand a three-month delay to the October 31 deadline – before agreeing to trigger a poll. 

Shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti told the BBC’s Today programme that Labour ‘lives and breathes’ for an election, but she said the ‘sequencing’ had to be considered. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today taunted that it would be the ‘mother of all U-turns’ if Labour does not support an election being held.

In a dramatic statement to the nation from Downing Street, the PM upped the ante by making clear a vote set to be forced by Remainers today will be treated as a confidence issue

Philip Hammond slammed the government's 'aggressive' tactics, saying the PM will have the 'fight of a lifetime' if he tries to deselect him

Former Cabinet minister Justine Greening pre-empted punishment for siding with Remainers by announcing she will not stand as a Tory candidate again

Philip Hammond (pictured left last night) slammed the government’s ‘aggressive’ tactics, saying the PM will have the ‘fight of a lifetime’ if he tries to deselect him. Former Cabinet minister Justine Greening (right) pre-empted punishment for siding with Remainers by announcing she will not stand as a Tory candidate again

Dominic Cummings (pictured leaving his London home today) is believed to be masterminding the No10 Brexit strategy

Dominic Cummings (pictured leaving his London home today) is believed to be masterminding the No10 Brexit strategy

A government source said MPs will face a ‘simple choice’ today. The source said the vote would be treated as though it is a vote of no confidence, and that any Conservative MP voting against the Government would have the whip removed from them.

‘If they vote tomorrow to wreck the negotiation process, to go against giving Britain the ability to negotiate a deal, then they’ll also have to reflect on what comes next,’ the source said.

In a sign of the anti-establishment campaign he intends to fight, Mr Johnson said he wanted a mandate to pursue the ‘people’s agenda’ of boosting the economy and public services.

How the Remainer bill to stop No Deal works

Remainer MPs have this published their plan to stop a No Deal Brexit. 

The primary aim of the so-called European Union (Withdrawal) (No.6) Bill 2019 is to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal on October 31. 

But it goes much further and demands the PM ask the EU for a Brexit delay to January 31 2020 in the event Britain and Brussels are unable to agree a new deal at an EU Council meeting on October 17.

The Bill states that if the EU does agree to the request for an extension the PM must immediately accept the offer. 

If the EU propose a different extension date the PM must accept it within two days – unless it is rejected by the House of Commons. 

The Bill does say that the UK can leave the bloc without a deal but only if MPs explicitly vote in favour of such an outcome. 

Delivering a stark message to Remainers over the crunch showdown today, Mr Johnson said he still ‘hoped’ rebels would back down. 

‘But if they do they will plainly chop the legs out from under the UK position and make any negotiation absolutely impossible,’ he said.

‘I want everybody to know there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay. We are leaving on the 31st of October. No ifs or buts.

‘We will not accept any attempt to go back on our promises or scrub that referendum and armed and fortified with that conviction I believe we will get a deal at that crucial summit in October, a deal that Parliament will certainly be able to scrutinise.’

Spelling out the choice, he said: ‘Let our negotiators get on with their work without that sword of Damocles over their necks and without an election, without an election.’

MPs will today try to seize control of proceedings in the Commons to try to crash through a law which would make it illegal for the PM to pursue a chaotic split from the EU. 

The first step is to ask Speaker John Bercow to accept an emergency debate under Standing Order 24, and let them bend procedural rules to table a business of the House motion.

If approved in a crucial vote tonight, that would give the rebels control of the timetable in the Commons, allowing them to introduce the Bill to block No Deal tomorrow. 

Ms Greening confirmed today that she would not stand for re-election in Putney. ‘It’s very clear to me that my concerns about the Conservative party becoming the Brexit party, in effect, have come to pass,’ she told Today.

‘So my decision is that if I really want to make a difference on opportunity and social mobility, I need to do that outside parliament.’

Yesterday evening rebels published the text of the mooted legislation, which orders the premier to ask the EU for a Brexit extension to January 31 – and accept their terms.

The primary aim of the so-called European Union (Withdrawal) (No.6) Bill 2019 is to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal on October 31. 

But it goes much further and demands the PM ask the EU for a Brexit delay to January 31 2020 in the event Britain and Brussels are unable to agree a new deal at an EU Council meeting on October 17.

The Bill states that if the EU does agree to the request for an extension the PM must immediately accept the offer. 

If the EU propose a different extension date the PM must accept it within two days – unless it is rejected by the House of Commons. 

The Bill does say that the UK can leave the bloc without a deal but only if MPs explicitly vote in favour of such an outcome.  

Mr Gauke, Mr Hammond and former minister Alistair Burt have all signed the Bill – meaning they have already sealed their fate.

The enormous pressure from No10 and whips appears to have had some success in whittling down Tory rebel numbers, which had been estimated at more than 20.

Mr Johnson could also be bolstered by support from around half a dozen Eurosceptic Labour MPs. 

However, with the government’s effective majority standing at just one, Mr Johnson looks on track for defeat.  

Rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve said today that his ‘impression’ was they had enough support to win the vote this evening. 

The typically tub-thumping intervention from Mr Johnson last night came after he held a crisis meeting with his Cabinet and spent yesterday afternoon privately urging Tory MPs to fall back into line. 

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd walks outside Downing Street yesterday. She has warned Mr Johnson not to go too far if Tory rebel MPs go against him tomorrow

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd walks outside Downing Street yesterday. She has warned Mr Johnson not to go too far if Tory rebel MPs go against him tomorrow

He has caused fury among centrists by threatening to remove the whip from rebel Tories who join the effort to stop the UK crashing out on October 31 – effectively ending their careers. 

Former Cabinet minister David Gauke claimed Mr Johnson actively wanted to lose the showdown so he can ‘purge’ Remainers reshape it into a new hardline Eurosceptic electoral force.

The scale of the challenge Mr Johnson could face in an election was also underlined today when Nigel Farage demanded the PM back a ‘clean break’ from the EU, saying ‘No deal is the best deal.’

How would the PM call a snap general election? 

Boris Johnson would request a general election on October 14 if MPs back a cross-party move to seize control of Commons business today, a government source has said. 

Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (FTPA) brought in eight years ago, polls are held in May every five years – with the next one scheduled in 2022.

But Mr Johnson has a number of methods to try and trigger an early election, such as putting down a motion in the Commons and secure the agreement of two-thirds of MPs.

MPs could also pass a motion stating the House has no confidence in the government, and a new election must be held unless they win the confidence of MPs, or an alternative arrangement is found within a 14-day period. 

An alternative course could be to pass a new piece of legislation dictating a national vote on a specified date – which would only require a simple majority of MPs.

This could be a simple one line bill stating when an election would be, and FTPA would continue to apply in all other situations. This was something previously considered by Theresa May in 2017.

But additional measures may well be unnecessary as Jeremy Corbyn has said he is eager for an election to ‘let the people decide’ on Brexit, and Mr Johnson will dare him to block the poll in a vote on Wednesday. 

However, some Remainers are wary of supporting the move unless there is a cast-iron guarantee that the election will take place before the Brexit deadline.

The Fixed Term Parliaments Act gives Mr Johnson discretion to set the date after the Commons approves an election, and there is currently little or no trust between the parties.

Tory success in a poll could rely on Mr Farage’s Brexit Party not splitting the Eurosceptic vote in key marginal seats.

Mr Farage said: ‘He is intent on reheating Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement… it would leave us still inside the customs union for ever and would not be a real Brexit.’  

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has egged Mr Johnson on to call an election despite warnings from his own side that he is walking into an ‘elephant trap’ that could see Labour trounced in an election. 

The senior government source said MPs who rebel today will ‘effectively be voting for a rapid election’.

‘He wants MPs to go to conference for recess. He wants four weeks of intense negotiations to get a deal,’ the source said.

‘But if MPs don’t want to let the government get on and negotiate then the public will be forced into a choice.’

Despite the developing drama yesterday, Mr Johnson found time to meet Carry On actress Barbara Windsor, who is campaigning for better dementia support, in the No10 garden. And he has taken possession of a new Jack Russell dog with girlfriend Carrie Symonds.

The growing prospect of an election sent the Pound tumbling again, with currency markets nervous about the consequences for the country. 

The process for calling an election is not entirely straightforward for the PM. 

Under the law, a premier must secure a two-thirds majority in a Commons vote to trigger an election. 

That would require support from the Opposition, which would normally be forthcoming. 

But Remainers will be wary of supporting the move unless there is a cast-iron guarantee that the poll will take place before the Brexit deadline. 

An alternative course could be to pass a new piece of legislation dictating a national vote – which would only require a simple majority. Legally there must be 25 days between dissolution of Parliament and polling day.

By convention the country votes on a Thursday, making October 10, 17 and 24 favourites. However, there is an EU summit on October 17 which might prove an obstacle.   

Dominic Cummings

Ms Greening posted a copy of her letter to Mr Johnson on Twitter, saying she was ‘deeply concerned’ by his approach on the Brexit issue 

Noisy pro-EU protests were taking place outside the Cabinet Office yesterday as politicians wrangled over the UK's future

Noisy pro-EU protests were taking place outside the Cabinet Office yesterday as politicians wrangled over the UK’s future

In an extraordinary blue-on-blue attack yesterday, Mr Gauke said he believed Mr Johnson was ‘goading’ Conservative MPs to vote against him. 

He complained that No10 had adopted a ‘particularly confrontational approach’ in the hope that the government will ‘lose this week and then seek a general election’. He suggested the aim was to split the Tories, removing more moderate MPs so it can become a more populist party.

The Tory rebels who could back a bid to stop a No Deal Brexit

Boris Johnson has been working hard to whittle down Tory rebel numbers, but there are still thought to be more than a dozen willing to sacrifice their careers to support the anti-No Deal move tonight. 

They include: 

Philip Hammond

David Gauke 

Justine Greening 

Alistair Burt

Ken Clarke 

Guto Bebb

Antoinette Sandbach 

Rory Stewart

Margot James

Stephen Hammond

Richard Harrington

Caroline Nokes

Sam Gyimah

Anne Milton 

Richard Benyon 

Mr Hammond wrote to the premier last night demanding more information on how he hopes to strike a deal with the EU. 

The intentions of Theresa May – who was spotted at Westminster yesterday – are unclear.

Mr Gauke said he was yet to be contacted by whips spelling out the consequences of what will happen if he votes in favour of stopping No Deal as he said Downing Street’s strategy was clear. 

He told the BBC: ‘It’s obviously a particularly confrontational approach and, I think, designed, frankly, to realign the Conservative Party, to transform the Conservative Party very much in the direction of a Brexit party. 

‘I don’t think there seems to be a huge effort to persuade people to support the Government this week. I think they seem to be quite prepared for there to be a rebellion then to purge those who support the rebellion from the party.

‘Normally there would be plenty of cajoling. One would have friends from the Cabinet phoning up and saying ‘Come on, why don’t you support the Government, give them a bit more time?’

‘None of that is happening. The usual operation isn’t particularly happening. It does seem to me they are almost goading people into voting against the Government.

‘Because I think the strategy, to be honest, is to lose this week and then seek a general election, having removed those of us who are not against Brexit, not against leaving the European Union, but believe we should do so with a deal.’ 

Ms Rudd also waded into the argument, telling the Spectator in an interview: ‘I have made my views clear to the Prime Minister that we should not be a party that is trying to remove from our party two former chancellors, a number of ex-cabinet ministers, that the way to hold our party together and to get a deal is to bring them onside.’  

Mr Johnson and girlfriend Carrie Symonds took possession of a new Jack Russell dog on Monday amid the swirling crisis

Mr Johnson and girlfriend Carrie Symonds took possession of a new Jack Russell dog on Monday amid the swirling crisis

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn held a shadow cabinet meeting in Manchester today as he finalised tactics for the Brexit clash

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn held a shadow cabinet meeting in Manchester today as he finalised tactics for the Brexit clash



Source link

You may also like

Popular News

Featured News

Trending News