UK Politics

Brexit: Still time to block no-deal on 31 October, Dominic Grieve says

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There is still time to block a no-deal Brexit, despite claims to the contrary, senior Tory rebel Dominic Grieve says.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, top No 10 advisor Dominic Cummings has told MPs even losing a no-confidence vote could not stop Boris Johnson taking the UK out of the EU on 31 October.

He reportedly said the PM could call an election for after the deadline, with Brexit taking place in the meantime.

But Mr Grieve told the BBC Mr Cummings was a "master of misinformation".

He said that if Mr Johnson lost a no-confidence vote, MPs would have 14 days to form an alternative government.

"[Mr Cummings] has a point, but he may also be missing the point," Mr Grieve - a former attorney general who has repeatedly called for a further referendum - told Radio 4's Broadcasting House programme.

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Image caption Dominic Grieve, a former attorney general, has previously called for a further referendum

"There are a number of things which the House of Commons can do, including bringing down the government [via a vote of no confidence] and setting up a new government in its place."

This arrangement - known as a government of national unity - would involve a cabinet made up of MPs from multiple parties.

However, Catherine Haddon, from the Institute for Government think tank, said that while Mr Grieve's suggestion was possible, it would rely on Mr Johnson resigning as PM after losing a no-confidence vote - something he is not legally bound to do.

"The problem there is it requires the sitting prime minister to resign, and because it is untested territory we don't know how that might work," she said.

"If you go back over history, certainly when governments have lost confidence that's been the presumption - but the other presumption has been that if they wanted to go to the people they could.

"He could say: 'No, I'm staying as prime minister and we're having a general election.'"

James Cleverly MP, chairman of the Conservative Party, told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that the government was "not going to initiate a general election" before 31 October.

And Ms Haddon said that, even if Mr Johnson lost a vote of no confidence and did call a general election, he was "perfectly able, constitutionally" to schedule it for after the Brexit deadline.

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There could be other ways for MPs to prevent no deal, Ms Haddon added, but she described them as "untested".

"We still don't know if there is something they could try involving an emergency debate," she said, "because the Speaker has previously implied that he thinks there's more scope there in terms of what Parliament can do, but again this is completely untested and falls on the Speaker reinterpreting previous parliamentary practice in a new way."

Like Mr Grieve, Labour's shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said he still believed the government's no-deal Brexit plans could be stopped, though he did not specify how.

"There will be opportunities for us when Parliament returns [from summer recess] in September to stop no-deal," he told Sky.

He added Labour would work "across the parties, because we know there are plenty of Tory MPs who want to block no deal".

Meanwhile, preparations for leaving the EU without a withdrawal deal are being ramped up, with Mr Johnson saying the UK must leave by the 31 October deadline.

The PM has said his preference is to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, remove the backstop and leave with a deal - but EU leaders have repeatedly stated the agreement is not open for renegotiation.

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