News | Published August 06 2019

Parliament cannot prevent no-deal Brexit, says Hancock

Health secretary Matt Hancock has told the BBC that Parliament will be unable to block a no-deal Brexit on October 31 after failing to do so in parliamentary votes back in June.

MPs were unable to win a majority to decisively block a no-deal Brexit during a prior series of parliamentary votes and Hancock now feels that averting no-deal may not be possible.

This comes in spite of Hancock saying that no-deal was not an option during the Conservative leadership campaign, under the pretence that MPs will “never allow it to happen”.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed that the party “will do everything stop no-deal”, including tabling a motion for a no confidence vote in the government at the “appropriate, very early, time to do it”.

Corbyn said that the prime minister seems to be "trying to slip no deal through, slip past Parliament and slip past the British people", a move which he said was "not acceptable”.

On June 12, a motion made in the House of Commons by Jeremy Corbyn was rejected by a government majority of eleven. The motion would have granted MPs control of the parliamentary timetable in the autumn, enabling them to prevent no-deal.

It is the outcome of this vote which has prompted Hancock’s comments.

He told BBC Radio Four: "I now don't think it [Parliament] can [stop no-deal]. I thought that it could and the votes went differently to what I anticipated. When the facts change, sometimes even as a politician you have to change your mind.”

Since Boris Johnson’s appointment as prime minister, the government has insisted that the UK will leave the EU on October 31 come what may.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "Politicians cannot choose which votes to respect. They promised to respect the referendum result and we must do.”

With former prime minister Theresa May’s negotiated withdrawal bill having been rejected by Parliament three times and the Commons no closer to rallying around an alternative, the default legal outcome as things stand will see the UK immediately leave the EU on October 31 without a deal.

Talks between the government and the EU have stalled over the bloc’s reluctance to remove the controversial Irish backstop from any withdrawal agreement.

Despite no-deal appearing a more likely outcome, pro-European Conservative MP Dominic Grieve believes there are other options for MPs wanting to block no deal.

One option is, as Corbyn suggested, a possible vote of no confidence in Johnson’s new government.

Even if the prime minister were to lose a vote of no confidence, the outcome may not see Johnson leave Number Ten with immediate effect, but rather call a general election.

Election dates are set by royal proclamation according to the prime minister’s own advice, so an election may be set to take place after the Brexit deadline and the UK's EU withdrawal finalised before it can be carried out.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
August 06 2019

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