Wednesday 18 September 2019

Corbyn backs plan to 'shut down the streets' of UK as Brexit tensions rise

Challenge to 'smash and grab raid on democracy' will mark Britain's biggest civil disobedience in decades

Making a stand: Brexit protesters outside the Palace of Westminster in London yesterday. Photo: PA wire
Making a stand: Brexit protesters outside the Palace of Westminster in London yesterday. Photo: PA wire

Gordon Rayner, Owen Bennett and Harry Yorke

Jeremy Corbyn has endorsed a plan to "shut down the streets" of the UK with the biggest act of civil disobedience in decades.

The Labour Party leader has urged his MPs to join protesters planning to "occupy bridges and blockade roads" in 10 major cities in protest at Boris Johnson's shutdown of parliament.

Some activists have likened the plans to the 1990 riots against Margaret Thatcher's poll tax.

Mr Corbyn earlier pledged that MPs will bid to prevent Mr Johnson from shutting down parliament when they return on Tuesday.

Speaking at the start of a three-day tour of Scotland in Dunfermline, Mr Corbyn indicated parliamentarians would pursue legislative means to stop the prime minister and avert a no-deal Brexit.

"The implications for this country are very, very serious," he warned.

"A no-deal Brexit would mean trade immediately at risk, jobs immediately at risk, the Northern Ireland Border suddenly reimposed because there would be no deal whatsoever, there would be no backstop of any sort.

"We will be back in parliament on Tuesday to challenge Boris Johnson on what I think is a smash-and-grab raid against our democracy.

"He's trying to suspend parliament in order to prevent a serious discussion and a serious debate to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

"What we're going to do is try to stop him on Tuesday with a parliamentary process in order to legislate to prevent a no-deal Brexit, and also to try to prevent him shutting down parliament during this utterly crucial period."

Mr Johnson is now facing legal challenges in London, Edinburgh and Belfast as the backlash to his decision to suspend parliament for more than a month in the run-up to Brexit continues unabated.

He received a double blow yesterday as Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and House of Lords whip George Young, a former government minister, quit their posts.

And backbench Tory rebels have started working with opposition MPs to try to force the prime minister not to take the UK out of the EU without a deal. One of them, former justice secretary David Gauke, said next week will be crucial for MPs hoping to block a no-deal Brexit.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator also made it clear he was not ready to retreat on the issue of the backstop, despite pressure from Mr Johnson.

Michel Barnier tweeted: "PM @BorisJohnson has said that the UK will leave the EU on 31 Oct. In all circumstances, the EU will continue to protect the interests of its citizens and companies, as well as the conditions for peace and stability on the island of Ireland. It is our duty & our responsibility."

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons and hardline Brexiteer, labelled the outrage against Mr Johnson as "phoney".

But major demonstrations have now been organised by Momentum, the campaign group that formed to propel Mr Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party.

Momentum has planned protests this weekend, and again on Tuesday, rallying supporters under the social media hashtag #StopTheCoup.

Supporters were urged to take "radical action" by blocking bridges and roads in London, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield and York tomorrow, with more protests in London on Tuesday.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, yesterday compared Mr Johnson to Adolf Hitler as tempers frayed in the face of a major constitutional crisis.

And John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker, broke off from part of his family holiday to phone Sir Oliver Letwin, the Remain-backing MP, to plan ways to prevent Mr Johnson proroguing Parliament.

Mr Bercow, now in Turkey with his wife and children, has discussed a plot to fast-track legislation through parliament to thwart Mr Johnson's plans, which were approved by the Queen on Wednesday.

The speaker, who is required to be impartial, described Mr Johnson's decision to suspend parliament for five weeks as "a constitutional outrage".

Meanwhile, in a rare joint statement, Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Independent Group for Change and the Green Party condemned Mr Johnson's move to prorogue parliament.

They said: "There is no mandate from the public for a damaging no-deal Brexit. The prime minister is shutting down Parliament with the sole aim of stopping MPs from avoiding a no-deal Brexit.

"Voters are being deprived of the opportunity to have their representatives hold the government to account, make any key decisions, and ensure there is a lawful basis for any action that is taken."

Irish Independent

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