Plotters dither in bid to oust PM: Anti-Brexit MPs will hold emergency talks on Monday to decide whether to try to bring down Boris Johnson during Tory party conference this week
- Labour, the Scottish National Party, and the Lib Dems will hold emergency talks
- Ministers on standby to travel back to London if an attempt is made to topple PM
- They fear Speaker John Bercow will allow MPs free rein to try to hobble Mr Johnson’s efforts to get an EU deal
Anti-Brexit MPs were last night dithering over whether to try to bring down Boris Johnson during this week’s Tory conference.
Labour, the Scottish National Party, and the Lib Dems will hold emergency talks in London today with a rag-bag of independent MPs to decide on their next step in frustrating a No Deal Brexit.
Ministers are on standby to travel back to London from the conference in Manchester if an attempt is made to topple the PM.
They fear Speaker John Bercow will allow MPs free rein to try to hobble Mr Johnson’s efforts to get an EU deal in the hope of eventually cancelling Brexit altogether.
Under one proposal under consideration, MPs could even change the law to allow the Commons Speaker to stand in for the Prime Minister and request another Brexit delay from Brussels.
Ministers fear Speaker John Bercow will allow MPs free rein to try to hobble Mr Johnson’s efforts to get an EU deal in the hope of eventually cancelling Brexit altogether
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday savaged Mr Bercow, saying his recent conduct had ‘damaged the standing of the House of Commons in the eyes of the British public to the lowest point in modern history’.
Reports also suggested the group of Remainers will discuss changing the law to bring forward the date when the Prime Minister has to ask Brussels to extend Article 50.
It is claimed they fear the current deadline – October 19 – does not leave enough time to stop a No Deal Brexit in the courts by the end of the month if the Tory leader refuses to ask for an extension.
The Daily Telegraph reported that some Liberal Democrat MPs want the deadline brought forward to October 5.
But last night the prospect of a formal vote of no-confidence appeared to be fading as members of the so-called Remain Alliance squabbled over who should replace Mr Johnson if he is ousted. The row came as:
- Mr Johnson came out fighting over the latest sleaze allegations, with No 10 denying claims by journalist Charlotte Edwardes that he squeezed her thigh 20 years ago;
- Downing Street warned that the Government had as few as ten days to strike a Brexit deal, but insisted it was still possible;
- It emerged that the Prime Minister apologised to the Queen last week after the Supreme Court ruled his advice to her to suspend Parliament was unlawful;
- He said he had been a ‘model of restraint’ as he defended his description of anti-No Deal legislation as the ‘Surrender Act’;
- Sajid Javid prepared to unveil £25billion in infrastructure spending to boost the UK’s creaking roads and broadband provision.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford called on the opposition parties yesterday to unite and bring down the Government this week to install a caretaker prime minister who would delay Brexit and avoid a No Deal departure at the end of next month.
He said it was not enough to ‘sit back and hope Boris Johnson doesn’t allow us to crash out without a deal’, adding: ‘We do not believe Johnson is going to extend Article 50 – and we won’t risk time running out.’
But the Lib Dems warned they would only back a vote of no-confidence if Jeremy Corbyn stepped aside and allowed a less divisive figure, such as Labour grandee Dame Margaret Beckett, to take charge of a so-called ‘government of national unity’.
The Labour Party appeared to be getting cold feet about trying to bring down the Government this week. Education spokesman Angela Rayner told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Labour would not support a vote until after a new law kicked in next month requiring Mr Johnson to seek another Brexit delay. She added: ‘We want to make sure we get No Deal off the table before we do anything else.’
The Lib Dems and independent MPs have made it clear they will not install Mr Corbyn at No 10 and are pushing for a compromise candidate.
Dame Margaret is the favourite, but others are also being canvassed, including Tory former chancellor Kenneth Clarke, ex-Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman and Tory former home secretary Amber Rudd.
Mr Rees-Mogg condemned the plot as a ‘Remoaner coup’. And Mr Johnson mocked the plotters, who went to the Supreme Court to secure their right to hold the Government to account on Brexit but now seem unsure what to do.
Commenting on last week’s toxic proceedings in the Commons, he said yesterday: ‘Parliament made a huge effort to come back early to debate Brexit. Fine.
‘But did you actually hear anything in those debates which advanced the store of human knowledge about Brexit? Absolutely not.’ Pressed on the threat of a no-confidence vote, he said the Government had already offered to set aside parliamentary time for a vote to trigger an election, only for Mr Corbyn to refuse.
If pro-Remain MPs pull back from a formal vote of no confidence they will consider alternatives to unsettle the PM during the Tory conference, with Plaid Cymru pushing for formal impeachment proceedings against Mr Johnson.