Theresa May slams cross-party group over ‘grossly irresponsible’ plot to halt no-deal Brexit
Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt have rounded on MPs for threatening to shut down the Government if the next Prime Minister tries to force through a no-deal Brexit.
The Prime Minister has slammed it as "grossly irresponsible" while the Foreign Secretary, who is hoping to win the race to replace her in Number 10, branded the idea “counter-productive”.
The cross-party move, to be launched next week, would prevent either Mr Hunt or Boris Johnson from taking the UK out of the European Union on 31 October if Parliament opposes it.
MPs including former attorney general Dominic Grieve and Labour grandee Margaret Beckett are expected to put forward an amendment to a vote on government expenditure that could shut off key public spending.
Under parliamentary rules, MPs must back all government expenditure twice a year. The group's bid could cut off cash to areas such as schools, welfare benefits and international aid - effectively shutting the Government down.
The proposal came after Mr Johnson insisted he would take Britain out on 31 October “do or die” and according to The Times will be backed by Labour.
But a spokesman for Mrs May said: “Any attempt to deny vital funding to Whitehall departments would be grossly irresponsible.
“This is government spending for this financial year and funds schools, housing and welfare.
“It aims to stop the departments accessing finance in a particular circumstance and we would find that to be grossly irresponsible.”
Meanwhile a spokesperson for Mr Hunt said it could make it harder for ministers to reach a deal with Brussels.
“I strongly urge all Conservatives to come together and rally around the new prime minister, whoever that is,” he said.
“But there’s no doubt these are incredibly unstable and uncertain times and that people out in the country will be asking themselves who they trust to have the skill and the leadership to hold our party together, get that new deal, and get Brexit done.”
Mr Hunt has said that he is prepared to leave without a deal, but not if there was a “prospect of a better deal”.
In an online Tory leadership hustings, Mr Johnson insisted a no-deal Brexit was a remote prospect, but did not rule out "proroguing" Parliament in a bid to rail Brexit through.
He said: "It is absolutely vital that we prepare for a no-deal Brexit if we are going to get a deal. But I don’t think that is where we are going to end up - I think it is a million-to-one against - but it is vital that we prepare.”
CEO of the pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain, Naomi Smith, said of the rebel MPs’ bid: “There is no majority for no deal in this House or the country and so it is only right that parliament reasserts itself again the wishes of new PM, elected by a small group of Brexit zealots trying to crash us out of the EU.”
“This is just the kind of cross party collaboration we need among internationalist MPs to stop a harmful no deal Brexit.”
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