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How MPs are planning to block a no-deal Brexit

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Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer with shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey

Niklas Halle'n/AFP/Getty Images

Labour leads attempt to introduce legislation to prevent EU exit without trade agreement

In Depth
Wednesday, June 12, 2019 - 1:01pm

MPs are launching a bid to block a no-deal Brexit as some Tory leadership contenders pledge to leave the EU with or without an agreement in place.

Labour is leading a cross-party attempt to force a vote that would allow the introduction of legislation preventing the next prime minister from allowing the UK to crash out of the bloc on 31 October without a deal.

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If successful, the move could undermine the campaigns of Conservative candidates including Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Esther McVey.

What exactly is Labour trying to do? 

Today marks the “first step” in the “audacious” plan, says The Guardian. Labour is tabling a motion during an opposition day debate that would give MPs control of the parliamentary agenda on 25 June.

If passed in a vote today, the same motion could then be used on that date to introduce legislation that would prevent the next PM from taking Britain out of the union without first agreeing terms for the future EU-UK relationship.

Will the vote pass?

It’s too early to say, but Labour has the backing of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems, the Greens and former Conservative cabinet minister Oliver Letwin. Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, has urged Tory ministers including Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond to back the motion.

According to The Guardian, the success of the plan depends on whether enough of Rudd and Hammond’s colleagues answer Starmer’s call. Tory sources told the newspaper that it would be tough to persuade Conservatives to back any Labour opposition day motion.

Why is Letwin’s backing notable?

Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly has also said he will vote for the Labour motion, but Letwin’s support is especially significant because he proposed a similar cross-party motion jointly with Labour’s Yvette Cooper in April. It passed, albeit by only one vote.

What does this mean for Johnson?

Johnson is not the only candidate for the Tory leadership who has said he is prepared to push ahead with a no-deal exit, but he is currently viewed as the most likely to win the top job.

The former foreign secretary told The Sunday Times this weekend that he was prepared to use the threat of no-deal in an attempt to force the EU to renegotiate the exit deal agreed with Theresa May. But if Labour’s motion succeeds, his hands could be tied. 

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