SACKED Tory rebel Sir Oliver Letwin wants to create a “zombie parliament” by delaying Boris Johnson’s general election until next summer at least if he fails to get a new Brexit deal.
He warned there was a cross-party majority in favour of blocking going to the polls until our EU split is resolved — either by passing a deal or holding a second referendum.
Sir Oliver, a leading architect of the law to block a No Deal, said going back to the people to vote on Brexit must come first as an election would “muddle things up”.
But Tory Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith accused him of “stabbing Conservative MPs in the back”.
He said: “He no longer wants a government that governs; he wants a government that spends its time bending its knee to Parliament. That is unsustainable.
“He clearly wants to trash the reputation of our country and leave even more of a zombie Parliament.” The clash came on another day of twists on Brexit as:
- The PM denied court findings he lied to the Queen over why he wanted her to suspend Parliament.
- Mr Johnson insisted Britain would be ready for No Deal amid uproar over the release of Yellowhammer documents detailing the “worse-case” fall-out.
- The critical head of Kent County Council admitted “real, accelerated progress” in making preparations for dealing with jams around the port of Dover.
- EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier said there was “no reason to be optimistic” a deal will be struck as he rejected Mr Johnson’s claim “great progress” was being made.
- Sources in Dublin said the Irish government is open to giving Northern Ireland a say on how the backstop is applied to make it “more palatable” to Ulster unionists in the DUP.
Sir Oliver’s call to delay an election in favour of a second referendum came after deputy Labour leader Tom Watson broke ranks with Jeremy Corbyn to demand his party take similar action.
But Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell deepened Labour’s chaos on Brexit by blasting Mr Watson’s comments, telling BBC’s Newsnight: “I think he’s got the wrong judgement on this one.”
Antoinette Sandbach, who like Sir Oliver was expelled from the Tory party after backing the anti-No Deal legislation last week, delivered another boost to Remainers by giving her support to a second referendum.
Laying out his position, Sir Oliver said: “I’ve heard all sorts of predictions of the election timing — next week, next minute, next day — but I have never been confident they were right because I think we will get a majority in the Commons who agree with the view that I take, which is it is better to get the Brexit issues resolved first and have an election after.
“That means either you get a deal and get it in place, which is relatively quick, or you have a deal followed by a referendum, which is relatively long.”
Asked if he believes MPs will continue to block a general election, he added: “I think it is a proposition that is likely to go on being defeated.”
‘STABBING TORIES IN THE BACK’
But Tory MP Nigel Evans said it was “time to trust the people, not run away from them”. He added: “MPs are already in contempt of the people by their refusal to deliver on Brexit.
Brexit and election blockers will pay a heavy price with a huge clear-out by the voters.”
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson yesterday insisted a Scottish court’s finding on Wednesday that he misled Her Majesty was “absolutely not” right.
In late August he asked the monarch to send MPs home for five weeks so he could prepare for a new Queen’s Speech.
But a panel of three appeal judges ruled he had misled her and that prorogation was unlawful because his actions were actually “motivated by the improper purpose of stymying Parliament”.
On his 50th day as PM, Mr Johnson countered: “The High Court in England plainly agrees with us but the Supreme Court will have to decide. We need a Queen’s Speech; we need to get on and do all sorts of things at a national level.”
[Sir Oliver] clearly wants to trash the reputation of our country and leave even more of a zombie Parliament
Iain Duncan Smith
The PM was also forced to intervene in a blazing Cabinet row over the judges’ ruling. Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng blasted the court for “interfering” in Brexit.
But Mr Johnson insisted the British judiciary is one of “the great glories of our constitution”. He added: “I’m not going to quarrel with or criticise the judges. It’s very important we respect the independence of the judiciary.”
Former Cabinet minister Amber Rudd also weighed into the row to reveal Theresa May had also considered suspending Parliament to block the first Brexit delay in March.
But she said the ex-PM dismissed the idea as “the wrong approach” and “un-Conservative”.
In a courtroom boost for Downing Street yesterday, a judge in Northern Ireland threw out a new bid to rule No Deal illegal as it would breach the peace process.
Elsewhere, the EU’s Brexit chief Michel Barnier said there was “no reason be optimistic” on striking a deal.
‘PAY A HEAVY PRICE’
He told MEPs that Britain has not tabled solid enough plans on replacing the backstop to resume formal political talks.
He urged Mr Johnson to swiftly come forward with “concrete and legally operable proposals” to break the deadlock.
His remarks came as EU sources admitted Brussels was open to giving Northern Ireland more of say over EU laws they would have to abide by as part of a rejigged border fix.
But diplomats insisted they would never grant Stormont a full veto — a key DUP demand. But in a boost for the PM yesterday, one of his fiercest No Deal critics claimed he is now confident “we can avoid disruption” after predictions of chaos around Dover.
MOST READ IN BREXIT
Kent County Council chief Paul Carter said there had been “real progress, accelerated progress” in preparations since July. But he said he wants police to be freed up to help “man the pumps”.
The five-page Yellowhammer documents released this week had warned of riots and food shortages. But Mr Johnson yesterday insisted that was a “worst-case scenario”.
He added: “In reality we will certainly be ready for a No Deal Brexit if we have to do it and I stress again that’s not where we intend to end up.”
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