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Fri, 10 July 2020

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Opposition parties in fresh bid to force Boris Johnson to abide by law blocking no-deal Brexit

Opposition parties in fresh bid to force Boris Johnson to abide by law blocking no-deal Brexit
3 min read

Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to hold Boris Johnson "to account" as opposition party leaders prepared to thrash out plans to halt a no-deal Brexit.

The Labour leader will sit down with figures including Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, the SNP's Ian Blackford, Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts, the Independent Group's Anna Soubry and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas in Westminster on Monday.

The meeting marks the latest attempt by the parties to ensure the Prime Minister cannot take Britain out of the EU without a deal on 31 October.

But it comes amid deep splits between Labour and the Lib Dems over who would become PM should Mr Johnson's government fall.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Corbyn said the group would focus on making sure the Prime Minister complies with the Benn Act, which orders him to seek a Brexit extension rather than head for a no-deal exit if he cannot reach an agreement with the EU by 19 October.

"Labour is continuing to lead cross party efforts to prevent a damaging no-deal," the Labour leader said. "Today’s meeting will give us the chance to scrutinise the government’s proposals together."

He added: "It’s already clear that Johnson’s proposal would slash food safety and standards, exposing us to – among other things - chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef, currently banned under EU standards.

"That’s what a Trump Deal Brexit would mean in practice."

And he said: "The cross party meeting will decide what next steps we can take together to hold the government to account, and to ensure the Prime Minister adheres to the law in seeking an extension if no deal is reached by 19 October."

The Times meanwhile reports that the group will discuss moves to force the Prime Minister to publish any legal advice from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox on his new plan to replace the Brexit agreement's Irish backstop.

A source involved in the talks said: "It was Geoffrey Cox’s legal advice that did for Theresa May. What is the legal advice that sits behind this deal?"


But the meeting comes amid continued tension between the Lib Dems and Labour over plans to form a short-lived caretaker administration if Mr Johnson's government is brought down in a vote of no-confidence.

Mr Corbyn has called on the other parties to back him as an interim PM who would extend Article 50 before calling an election, but the Lib Dems have instead floated senior backbenchers including former Tory Ken Clarke and Labour's Harriet Harman.

Ms Swinson reacted angrily over the weekend after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said her party's refusal to back Mr Corbyn would see the Lib Dems "blamed for the no-deal".

The Lib Dem leader shot back on Twitter: "Now the truth comes out. The Labour Party would rather have no-deal than entertain *any* of the other options people have suggested for an emergency PM."

The Sun reports that former Labour leader Ed Miliband is now being discussed as a possible interim Prime Minister that Mr Corbyn could get behind.

A Labour source told the paper: "People may laugh but Ed is someone who could genuinely win more support across the House than most in this scenario - and crucially be palatable to Corbyn - as long as everyone knew it was for a short time period."

Labour's Shami Chakrabarti on Sunday dismissed as "fantasy football" a suggestion that Commons Speaker John Bercow could step into the role.

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