Sat, 23 September 2023

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Tory leadership candidates condemn Dominic Raab over threat to close Parliament

4 min read

Dominic Raab has come under sustained attack from his Tory leadership rivals over his threat to close down Parliament to force through Brexit.

The former Brexit Secretary has said that so-called "prorogation" must not be ruled out in order to guarantee that the UK leaves the EU on 31 October.

In the first televised debate in the race to succeed Theresa May, Mr Raab again insisted the option must remain on the table.

He said: "I don't think it's likely, but it's not illegal. What I'm saying is, the minute we telegraph to the EU... that we're not willing to walk away at the end of October come what may, we lose the best shot of getting the deal. 

"Stop taking things off the table and make sure that the only thing we are absolutely 110% committed to is keeping our promises to the voters of this country. This leadership contest is an issue of trust and I'm the only one, I believe who can be trusted to get us out at the end of October."

But his comments drew angry responses from the other four Conservative candidates who took part in the Channel 4 debate, which was snubbed by frontrunner Boris Johnson.

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart said the plan was "deeply disturbing" and would "strike at the heart of our constitution".

He added: "The reason we shouldn't do that is that if we start doing it, Jeremy Corbyn is going to do it. And the big reason not to do it is that Tony Blair tried to do it in 2002 over the Iraq War and Parliament simply chose to meet in Church House...

"Parliament is not a building. Parliament is our democratic representatives and they will meet wherever they want to meet regardless of what a Prime Minister tries to do in the Iraq War or today."

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who came second behind Mr Johnson in last week's first ballot of Tory MPs, said: "If your response to that lack of ability to unite is to say, well in that case if you don't agree with me I'm just going to close down Parliament, despite the fact that the Brexit referendum was actually bringing back power to Parliament, it was bringing back sovereignty to this country - that is a fundamental misreading of what Parliament stands for and what the people in this country will accept.

"It's the wrong thing to do. I wouldn't do it - and I don't think most people in the Conservative party would do it either."

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the Tories had a "democratic duty" to deliver Brexit.

But he warned: "You don't deliver on democracy by trashing democracy. You know, we're not selecting a dictator on our country, we're selecting a Prime Minister of our country, of one of the proudest Parliamentary democracies in the world.

"I think to suggest that you would suspend Parliament and put an end to our sovereign democracy just... to implement democracy is just not right, and we can't do that."


Mr Raab also clashed angrily with Michael Gove when the Environment Secretary ruled out suspending Parliament over Brexit.

"I'm afraid you would buckle because you've shown you would take another extension," said Mr Raab.

"You would take no-deal off the table. You've said that you would accept legislation on a second referendum. When you do all of that, you rob ourselves of the best chance of a best deal."

But Mr Gove hit back: "I won't buckle. I will defend our democracy, Dom. I will defend our democracy. And you cannot take Britain out of the European Union against the will of Parliament."


Meanwhile Mr Johnson, who was represented by an empty podium throughout the debate, was criticised for his no-show by Mr Hunt.

The Foreign Secretary said: "If Boris’s team won’t let him out to debate five pretty friendly colleagues, how will he get on with 27 EU countries."

Mr Johnson has said he will take part in the next televised debate on the BBC on Tuesday, by which time the list of candidates will have been whittled down further by another ballot of MPs.

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