John Major: Plan to shut down Parliament to force through Brexit is 'gold-plated hypocrisy'

Posted On: 
14th June 2019

John Major has accused Tory leadership contenders threatening to shut down Parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit of "gold-plated hypocrisy". 

Sir John Major hit out at Tory leadership hopefuls considering "proroguing" Parliament
Credit: 
PA Images

The former Prime Minister said the idea of "proroguing" - which has been floated by Dominic Raab as a way of ensuring Brexit happens on 31 October - was "fundamentally unconstitutional".

Boris Johnson, the frontrunner in the race to take over Theresa May next month, has also stopped short of using the extraordinary measure.

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Speaking at Chatham House, Sir John said: “I don’t think anybody who proposes that, or even let it flit through their mind for a second, has any understanding of what Parliament is about, what sovereignty is about, what leadership is about, or what the UK is about and the sooner the House of Commons stamps on the idea absolutely, comprehensibly and forever, the better.”

He said Britain was entering “very dangerous territory” if candidates for PM were considering the option on the basis that Parliament "may take a different view from a particular faction in the House of Commons".

The Tory grandee added: “When you look back at British history, you cannot image Disraeli, Gladstone, Churchill or Thatcher, even in their most difficult period, saying ‘let us put Parliament aside while I carry through this difficult policy’…

“It is fundamentally unconstitutional … and to hear that argument come from the people who in the Brexit debate talked about parliamentary sovereignty being at stake, it is not just fundamentally distasteful, it is hypocrisy on a gold-plated standard.”

Mr Johnson insisted that the UK would be out of the EU by the deadline "deal or no deal" when he launched his pitch to be the next Tory leader on Wednesday.

But asked if he believed the next Prime Minister could carry out Brexit by that deadline, Sir John: "Those people who are suggesting that it can be done have their fingers crossed behind their back, whistling gently into the wind and hoping for some miracle where it might be possible.”

His intervention came on the same day that leadership hopeful Rory Stewart said that he would hold his own session of Parliament outside Westminster to "bring down" any Tory government which attempted to block MPs from the Brexit process.

When asked about Mr Johnson specifically, he told Sky News: “I guarantee you, if he were to try, I and every other member of Parliament will sit across the road in Methodist Central Hall and we will hold our own session of Parliament and we will bring him down,” he said.

“Because you do not, ever, lock the doors of Parliament in this country or indeed in any other country with any respect in the world.”

Meanwhile Ken Clarke, a key figure in Sir John’s Cabinet in the 1990s, suggested he could quit the party if any Tory Prime Minister tried to shut down Parliament.

He told the BBC: "The party would leave me, I think. For 60 years I’ve been a mainstream Conservative, it’s been a broad party but my own views have coincided with the broad body of what I thought were extremely good Conservative policies…

"I will always regard myself as a conservative but there’s a limit to the factions of the Conservative Party that I’m prepared to be associated with."