UK Opposition agrees plan to prevent no-deal Brexit
London, Aug. 27 (PTI): In an important breakthrough, the UK’s Opposition parties on Tuesday agreed on a strategy to prevent Britain from leaving the European Union without a deal in place by the October 31 deadline.
After a meeting in London called by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, senior MPs of the country’s prominent Opposition parties issued a joint statement, saying that they would work together on passing a legislation in the House of Commons to ensure British Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not pull the UK out of the 28-member economic bloc without an agreement in place.
“The leaders of the Opposition parties held a productive and detailed meeting on stopping a disastrous no-deal exit from the EU… The attendees agreed on the urgency to act together to find practical ways to prevent no deal, including the possibility of passing legislation and a vote of no confidence,” the statement read.
“The attendees agreed that Boris Johnson has shown himself open to using anti-democratic means to force through no deal,” it added.
The meeting follows concerns that in his pursuit of a “do or die” Brexit, Johnson may attempt to suspend Parliament and prevent MPs from having their say.
The leaders of the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru from Wales, the Green Party and the Independent Group for Change have so far failed to agree on a common ground, but after Tuesday’s meeting, they claim to be more aligned and will meet again to discuss how to stop the UK crashing out of the EU on October 31.
“With no mandate or majority, the numbers are stacking up against Boris Johnson and his extreme Brexit. The possibility of stopping Brexit is real and must be realised,” said Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in the Commons.
“Parliament must grasp this opportunity, unite to stop Boris Johnson shutting down democracy – and be ready to use all mechanisms to block a no-deal disaster, including deploying legislation as a priority.
“The SNP will play our full part and do everything we can to stop Brexit but Scotland’s future will not be left in Westminster’s hands,” he said, indicating the growing voices in favour of Scottish independence in opposition to a damaging Brexit.
Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson said after the meeting that a no-confidence vote remains a last resort to be able to enforce the will of Parliament and that the main proposal first would be to go down the “legislative route”.
Anna Soubry, the leader for the Independent Group for Change who had quit the ruling Conservative Party over the issue of Brexit, described the meeting as “excellent”.
“We agree we will work together to stop a no-deal Brexit by legislation,” she said.
The UK Parliament remains deeply divided over the issue of the country’s EU membership, with a majority fearing a chaotic impact on the British economy if it were to leave without proper agreements in place around border arrangements and other key areas that the UK has so far worked in tandem with the EU on.
The ruling Conservatives hit back by accusing the Opposition parties of trying to block the will of the British people, who had voted in favour of leaving the EU in a referendum in June 2016.
“Only Boris Johnson and the Conservatives will deliver Brexit by October 31, whatever the circumstances, and deliver the change British people voted to see,” said Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly, in response to the Opposition’s moves.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear the Labour want to ignore the referendum, stay in the EU and will use any excuse to do so. Labour’s repeated promises to respect the referendum result lie in tatters and it’s clear Corbyn cannot be trusted to deliver on the will of the British people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Johnson is set for more talks with European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker during a phonecall this week in an effort to find a way forward.
The British Prime Minister is also sending his so-called EU “Sherpa” Europe adviser David Frost for talks with officials in Brussels on Wednesday.
British officials believe in recent days there has been a slight shift in the stance of the EU, who previously viewed the Withdrawal Agreement – struck by former Prime Minister Theresa May and rejected repeatedly over the controversial Irish backstop – as sealed and non-negotiable.
It has raised hopes of reopening of that agreement to remove the backstop, which Brexiteers fear would keep the UK tied to EU rules even after Brexit due to the importance of an open border between EU member-country Ireland and UK territory Northern Ireland.
The Boris Johnson-led government has been pushing for alternative arrangements to ensure such an open border, rather than the insurance policy proposed by the EU in the form of a backstop.