Monday 19 August 2019

Johnson plotting for Brexit to go ahead even if Tories are forced into general election

Still bullish: Boris Johnson faces a no-confidence vote in parliament. Picture: PA
Still bullish: Boris Johnson faces a no-confidence vote in parliament. Picture: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The UK could crash out of the EU in the midst of a general election under the latest plan apparently being hatched in Downing Street.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces the prospect of a vote of no confidence when the House of Commons returns next month - but his aides believe even this would not derail his Brexit plans.

Sources close to Mr Johnson are reported to have indicated that polling could take place just days after the October 31 deadline.

Amid ever-increasing fears at EU level that the British government actually wants to crash out, the prime minister yesterday called on MPs to "get on and deliver" Brexit.

It comes as the Irish Independent has learned of efforts by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to shore up support and understanding among EU leaders in recent days. With the UK refusing to engage with the EU unless the backstop is dropped from the Withdrawal Agreement, Mr Varadkar has been in contact with a number of European capitals.

It is understood the Taoiseach spoke by phone in recent days with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Spain's Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Estonia's Jüri Ratas.

Mr Ratas became the first EU head of government to meet the new British prime minister when he was in London on Tuesday.

An Irish Government source said each leader Mr Varadkar spoke with had expressed "solid support" for Ireland, despite the looming crisis.

There has been a concerted effort on the part of some British politicians to direct blame for the impasse towards Dublin - but sources insisted the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier also remains firmly of the view that the backstop will not be scrapped.

Sources in Brussels said they were "still waiting for the UK to formulate some sort of a coherent approach".

However, there is little sign of a consensus building in London - where speculation is mounting that an election will be held in early November.

It is possible Mr Johnson, who has a parliamentary majority of just one, will lose a confidence vote after MPs return from a summer break.

He would then have 14 days to win a second vote or call a general election.

But the 'Financial Times' reported last night that senior No 10 officials are working on a plan to carry out Brexit even if the government collapses.

"We can't stop them forcing an election, but we control the timetable so we will force the date after October 31," a senior official was quoted as saying.

"If there must be a general election, then it will be days after October 31."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the cabinet secretary to rule that Mr Johnson cannot force through a no-deal Brexit in the middle of a general election.

He claimed it would be an "anti-democratic abuse of power" if the drastic departure was forced through amid an election campaign.

Mr Johnson has sidestepped questions as to what he would do in the event of a no-confidence vote.

"We are going to leave the European Union on October 31, which is what the people of this country voted for, it's what MPs voted for, and that's what I think parliamentarians of this country should get on and do," he said.

Irish Independent

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