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Sir John Major warns Boris Johnson could use 'political chicanery' to force through no-deal Brexit

3 min read

Boris Johnson could resort to "political chicanery" to bypass a law designed to stop a no-deal Brexit, Sir John Major has claimed.

He said the Prime Minister could use a so-called "Order of Council" to avoid implementing the legislation until after 31 October.

Sir John said Mr Johnson could carry out the move through the Privy Council, meaning Parliament would not be able to block it.

That way, the PM could meet his "do or die" pledge to have the UK out of the EU by Hallowe'en.

The so called Benn Act forces Mr Johnson to seek a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline if he is unable to get a deal through Parliament by 19 October.

But in a speech on Friday at the Spanish Embassy to the Centre for European Reform think-tank, Sir John - who was Prime Minister from 1990 until 1997 - will say: "My fear is that the Government will seek to bypass statute law, by passing an Order of Council to suspend the Act until after 31 October. 

"It is important to note that an Order of Council can be passed by Privy Councillors – that is government ministers – without involving HM The Queen.

"I should warn the Prime Minister that – if this route is taken – it will be in flagrant defiance of Parliament and utterly disrespectful to the Supreme Court.

"It would be a piece of political chicanery that no-one should ever forgive or forget."

Elsewhere in his speech, Sir John - who campaigned for Remain in the EU referendum - also accuses the PM of seeking an early election by whipping up "fear and anger" at the establishment among voters.

He will say: "If the Government was truly confident in the aftermath of their Brexit policy, they would wait for next spring, take credit for the success of Brexit, rejoice – even gloat – that all fears about it were unfounded and propose a few popular 'one nation' policies to restore the fortunes of the Conservatives. 

"But instead, to reinforce their electoral appeal, the Government seems intent on whipping up dissent by using highly emotional and evocative language that can only provoke fear and anger, and fuel grievances against Parliament and the law.

"It means this government wishes to win re-election, by inciting opposition to the most important bulwarks of our State and its freedom. 

"Their approach is profoundly un-Conservative and – whatever its short-term effect – will do permanent damage to the reputation of the Conservative Party. 

"I cannot believe any previous Government – in our long history – would have even considered such reckless and divisive behaviour."

Aiming his fire on Mr Johnson's use of language to describe his political opponents, the former Prime Minister will add: "Most Conservatives are not a Brexit Party tribute band, nor have we abandoned our core values to find compromise, seek allies, and strive for unity, rather than division and disarray.

"We do not believe we have the right to ignore the voices of millions of others, whose opinions differ from our own. 

"And we abhor the language of division and hate – and words such as 'saboteur', 'traitor', 'enemy', 'surrender', 'betrayal' have no place in our Party, our politics, nor in our society. 

"It is emphatically not who we are as a people.  And must never be seen as so.

"I hope that the Conservative Parliamentary Party will regain its sense of balance, and rein in the faction of a faction that now prevails in Cabinet."

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