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Ed Davey: Yvette Cooper or Hilary Benn should lead unity government to stop Brexit

3 min read

Labour backbenchers Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn should lead a government of national unity to stop Brexit, according to one of the contenders to be Lib Dem leader.

Sir Ed Davey said they would be able to command the support of the majority of MPs if Boris Johnson tried to take the UK out of the EU without a deal.

The former Cabinet minister said it could happen if the Government fell but there was no support for either a general election or for Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister.

He said such a cross-party government would only last for several weeks to allow legislation to be introduced for a referendum - also known as a "people's vote" - on whether Brexit should go ahead.

Once the referendum was over, Sir Ed said, the Government would be dissolved and an election would then take place.

Speaking at a Lib Dem leadership hustings event in Westminster, Sir Ed said: "What this would envisage, and I'm not suggesting everyone is jumping to this idea just yet, would be a non-frontbench MP, probably from the Labour party, being Prime Minister because (Buckingham) Palace would have heard from Parliament that that MP had a significant number of support on the Conservative benches - 25/30 MPs probably, and they had also the support of the other opposition parties, and that I think could lead to a government of national unity that paved the way for legislation that would enable a people's vote."

Asked who those MPs would be, Sir Ed said: "I've named Yvette Cooper for obvious reasons, she's been very high-profile in cross-party work, and I've also mentioned Hilary Benn as chair of the Brexit Select Committee. But it would not be for me here to make that suggestion, it would be for others working cross-party.

"I think it probably has to be a Labour MP because most of the MPs supporting a Queen's Speech would be Labour. Ultimately it's a challenge to my Labour colleagues, many of who realise a no-deal Brexit would be deeply damaging to their constituents."

The Kingston MP insisted he had not spoken to either Ms Cooper or Mr Benn - both of whom have been vocal opponents of Brexit - about his highly unusual idea.

He said he did not "want to see Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister under any circumstances", and that a government of national unity was one way of avoiding it.

In a direct message to MPs, he said: "If you want to stop no-deal, what's your plan? Here's a plan and it's credible, but it will need people to step up to the plate."

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