Boris Johnson refuses to confirm if government will abide by legislation blocking no-deal Brexit

Cabinet minister Michael Gove has refused to say if the government would abide by legislation which blocked a no-deal Brexit.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove has refused to say if the government would abide by legislation which blocked a no-deal Brexit.
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The Prime Minister has refused to confirm if the government would abide by - or just ignore - legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit if it is brought by Tory rebels and opposition MPs this week.

Opponents of a no-deal Brexit look set to try to wrest control of the parliamentary agenda when the Commons returns from recess this week, and push through legislation delaying Brexit beyond October 31.

Boris Johnson has failed to answer if he would abide by, or ignore, any legislation to block a no-deal Brexit.

Boris Johnson has failed to answer if he would abide by, or ignore, any legislation to block a no-deal Brexit.

Their actions will be time-constrained given the Prime Minister has won the Queen's approval to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, although that will also be challenged in the courts in the coming week.

However when asked in a Sunday Times interview if he would ignore any law which would block a no-deal and further extend the UK's withdrawal from the EU, the Prime Minister failed to answer the question directly.

He said: "I simply say to my friends in Parliament, I do not detect an appreciable reduction in people's anxiety about this issue as a result of the extensions that have been. What we need to do is get a deal done, or if we can't get a deal done, then get out of the EU on October 31 come what may. And that's what we're going to do."

Mr Johnson ambivelence towards the idea that his government would have to abide by legislation, was underlined by Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who when pressed repeatedly on the issue by the BBC's Andrew Marr, said: "Let's see what the legislation says. You're asking me about a pig in a poke.

"And I will wait to see what legislation the opposition may try to bring forward."

Mr Gove's comments were immediately condemned by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Twitter who said: "We now have a UK government that can’t/won’t say a simple ‘yes’ to the question ‘will you abide by the law?’ Not so much prorogue as just plain rogue.

"These are dangerous times for democracy. We mustn’t allow this behaviour to be normalised."

Sir Keir Starmer said Boris Johnson needed to make an urgent statement on Mr Gove's comments. In a tweet, Labour's shadow Brexit Secretary said: "For ministers not to confirm that this Government will accept and comply with legislation lawfully passed is breathtaking.

"The Prime Minister must make a statement on this straight away. No Government is above the law."

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Leading Tory rebel and former justice secretary David Gauke said he was holding discussions with Prime Minister Boris Johnson tomorrow regarding the Brexit agenda.

He told Sky News: "I want to hear from him as to what is his plan to deliver a deal.

"When are we putting forward proposals to deal with this backstop issue? And I want to hear how he plans to deliver the legislation if we get a deal by October 31, because at the moment, frankly, I can't see how he's got time to do that."

Referring to reports that Tories who oppose a no-deal option could lose the party whip, Mr Gauke said: "Sometimes there is a point where... you have to judge between your own personal interests and the national interest. And the national interest has to come first.

"But, I hope it doesn't come to that, and I hope cooler and calmer heads will look at this and think that trying to split the Conservative Party in this way is not a sensible way forward for the Conservative Party, or indeed for the country."

Former Tory minister, MP Guto Bebb said Mr Gove's comments were "a disgrace to our democracy". He added: "This Government's unprecedented willingness to flout the rules is a disgrace to our democracy.

"Not only are they suspending Parliament to try and force through a disastrous no-deal, but now they are suggesting that, even if Parliament passed a law requiring the Government to avoid no-deal, they might simply ignore it.

"Our very democracy is now under threat from Boris Johnson and his Government.

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"Michael Gove recently admitted that no-deal is not what he campaigned for in 2016 but now he's willing to tear up our democratic system to force this outcome on the country, against the wishes of both Parliament and the public.

"The Brexiters in Government like to cloak themselves in the language of democracy, but they willingly ignore basic democratic principles as and when it suits them."

Mr Gove was also pressed on whether there would be shortages of fresh food as a result of a no-deal Brexit. He said: "Everyone will have the food they need. There will be no shortages of fresh food."

Asked if food prices would increase, Mr Gove said: "I think that there are a number of economic factors in play. Some prices may go up. Other prices will come down."