Tory grandee Ken Clarke vows to bring down next 'idiot' prime minister over no-deal Brexit
Tory grandee Ken Clarke has promised to vote to bring down any “idiot” future Tory prime minister if they attempt to force a no-deal Brexit through Parliament.
In a major attack on his own party, the former Chancellor said Conservative leadership candidates, including frontrunner Boris Johnson, were engaging in “fantasy” by pledging to remove the UK from the European on 31 October deal or no-deal.
Speaking to The Observer, he said: “This is a tragic farce of a crisis in which anger and protests are wide sentiments across the public scene. The Conservative party is in turmoil internally and deeply unpopular with the general public.
“My entire political career has been based on building up Britain’s political standing and economic prosperity through our membership of the EU and the European project. Now it’s all come to an end and the political system and parliament is in such mayhem and incapable of dealing with the crisis that this referendum has provoked.”
The pro-Remain party grandee also vowed to take the extraordinary step of backing an opposition attempt to torpedo the government if a new Conservative leader attempted to overrule Parliament to force through Brexit.
Both former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have both refused to rule-out suspending Parliament in a bid to stop MPs blocking a no-deal exit.
Mr Clarke added: “Well, I mean, I mean if there’s no other way…then you’ve got to bring that government down. You can’t have somebody saying ‘I’m going to be a dictatorial president for a month or two and fix everything despite parliamentary approval. If… some idiot was sailing onto a no-deal Brexit, I’d decide politics had finally gone mad and I was not going to support this.
“If the choice eventually became no deal or a second referendum, then they’d try to win my support - I’d stop abstaining and I’d vote for it."
Last week, fellow Tory MP Dominic Grieve said he would “not hesitate” to wreck a Tory government if the next Prime Minister moved to exit the EU without a deal. He told MPs that “the only way of stopping that prime minister would be to bring down that prime minister’s government…I will not hesitate to do that…Even if it means my resigning the whip and leaving the party.”
Meanwhile, Tory leadership candidate Rory Stewart said he too would help “bring down” any government which moved to suspend Parliament to stop MPs from blocking the plans.
Mr Clarke, who is backing Mr Stewart’s leadership bid, added: “With the exception of Rory Stewart they seem to be implying that they have some magic key to changing reality and getting the withdrawal agreement re-opened, or getting some marvellous technology that can check every lorry crossing the Irish border without having to have any customs officers there.
“The idea that we just leave on 31 October with no deal is utterly farcical.”
VARADKAR BACKSTOP WARNING
His comments come after Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned Tory leadership hopefuls that removing or time limiting the Irish border backstop would be as damaging for the country as a no-deal Brexit.
Several of the leading Conservative candidates have vowed to remove or renegotiate the controversial fallback plan which Tory MPs have claimed could tie the UK to the EU indefinitely.
But the Irish leader - along with top EU officials - said the backstop would not be open to renegotiation unless newly proposed technological solutions could be demonstrated to remove the threat of a hard border.
“It’s a legal guarantee and legally operable guarantee that we will never see a hard border again,” he told RTE.
“The difficulty we have with a time limit is effectively you are saying there will or could be a hard border once that time limit expires - that isn’t a backstop.
He added: “What we are open to, and always have been open to, is alternative arrangements that perhaps could avoid a hard border, through procedures and technologies and so on.
“What we expect - and I don’t think it’s unreasonable - we want to see that fleshed out, we want to see it exist, it demonstrated before we are willing to give up the backstop.”