Jeremy Corbyn calls on civil service chief to rule out 'anti-democratic' no-deal Brexit during election campaign

Posted On: 
9th August 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has urged Britain’s top civil servant to declare that Boris Johnson cannot force through a no-deal Brexit in the middle of a general election campaign.

Jeremy Corbyn
Credit: 
PA Images

The Labour leader said that forcing Britain out of the EU hours before a potential change of government would mark “an unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power”.

It follows claims that the Prime Minister could wrong-foot Labour’s plans for a no-confidence vote after Parliament's summer recess by setting any resulting election after the 31 October Brexit deadline.

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That would potentially mean that MPs would be powerless to stop the UK leaving the EU on that date because the Commons would not be sitting.

In a letter to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, Mr Corbyn said that in such circumstances, the Brexit deadline should be extended so that a new government could change course.

He said: “Forcing through no deal against a decision of Parliament, and denying the choice to the voters in a general election already underway, would be an unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power by a Prime Minister elected, not by the public, but by a small number of unrepresentative Conservative Party members.

“I am therefore writing to seek your urgent clarification on the proper application of ‘Purdah’ rules in such a scenario and the constitutional implications of failing to abide by those rules.

“As you will be aware, Purdah guidance makes clear that 'decisions on matters of policy on which a new government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present government should be postponed until after the election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money'.

“As government assessments make clear, a No Deal Brexit would have a deeply damaging impact on the economy, with serious consequences for jobs, living standards and industry in this country.

“A Labour government will never support a No Deal exit, so would of course want the opportunity to take a different view.”

“I would therefore be grateful for your confirmation that, if the UK is due to leave the EU without a deal during a general election campaign, the government should seek a time-limited extension to Article 50, to let the electorate decide and the incoming government to take the next steps on the basis of the voters’ wishes."

If Mr Johnson failed to win the backing of the Commons in any confidence vote, there would be a 14-day period in which attempts would be made to form a government which had the support of most MPs.

Tory MP Dominic Grieve blasted any move by Mr Johnson to cling on to power even after a defeat as "simply breathtaking, stupid, infantile", while insisting it would not work.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told an Edinburgh Fringe Event this week that he would send Mr Corbyn to Buckingham Palace to tell the Queen that "we're taking over" if a no-confidence motion is passed.