- Remainer MPs are reportedly plotting to bring down Boris Johnson’s government, install a “unity prime minister” for a few days to delay Brexit, then call a general election.
- Pro-EU MPs are discussing the possibility of forming a cross-party government of national unity.
- Johnson faces the challenge from opposition MPs and a handful of Conservative colleagues who are determined to block a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
- The prime minister faces losing a confidence vote in a few weeks time if he pursues a no-deal exit.
- Johnson will refuse to resign if such an outcome transpires, reports have claimed.
Remainer Members of Parliament are considering a plan to install a “unity prime minister” to replace Boris Johnson with the sole purpose of delaying Brexit before calling a general election, according to a report.
Johnson, who has pledged to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union by October 31 with or without a deal, faces the challenge from opposition MPs and a handful of Conservative colleagues who are determined to block a no-deal Brexit, the Financial Times reported, citing several MPs involved in planning efforts.
The prime minister hopes to delay any election beyond October 31, when he expects Brexit to have been delivered.
But if his opponents are able to win no-confidence vote against his government before that date, the House of Commons would, in theory, enter a 14-day “cooling off” period immediately after the vote, during which time an alternative government would have the chance to prove it could form a majority in the House of Commons.
Johnson’s team, however, will reportedly refuse to resign even if he does lose a no-confidence vote.
Instead, he would stay in Downing Street until the UK has left the EU without a deal on October 31, before calling an election, setting up a constitutional stand-off that could see the Queen dragged into the Brexit crisis.
Under the Remainer plan, the “government of national unity” – comprised of MPs from different parties – would only exist for a few days with the sole purpose of asking the EU to delay Brexit by extending Article 50.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would be expected first to try and form a government in the event of Johnson losing a confidence vote. He last night confirmed he would call a no-confidence vote at “at a point when we can win it” but at an “appropriate very early time”.
Speaking on a visit to Derbyshire, he said: “We will do everything to stop no-deal including a no confidence vote at the appropriate very early time to do it.”
“The Prime Minister seems to be trying to slip no-deal through, slip past Parliament and slip past the British people. I’m sorry, it’s not on, it’s not acceptable,” he added.
But some Remainer MPs believe a pro-EU government containing MPs from the Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, and parts of the Labour Party, might have a better chance of forming a majority.
Senior Labour MPs Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn have been touted as potential “unity” prime ministers. As have Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and Green MP Caroline Lucas.
It is not clear whether either form of national unity government could command a House of Commons majority.
A senior anti-Brexit MP who supports the idea this week told Business Insider that “the numbers are not there” for it.
They said that a national unity government would have to include the Labour Party – but claimed that number of opposition MPs would not support a government led by Corbyn. However, it is doubtful that Corbyn and his team would agree to support a government led by a Labour backbencher like Cooper, or Lib Dem leader Swinson.
Johnson could refuse to resign
Under plans being considered by Downing Street, Johnson could simply refuse to resign after losing a no-confidence vote in order to force through a no-deal Brexit on October 31, according to the Times.
Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s most senior aide, told colleagues last week that Johnson would simply refuse to quit.
His aides reportedly believe he could simply refuse to quit during the 14-day “cooling off period” and call a general election after Brexit was delivered.
Catherine Haddon, a constitutional expert at the Institute for Government think-tank, told the Times that under the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, the prime minister is not required to resign after losing a vote of confidence.
“In terms of a strict reading of the legislation, Boris is not required to resign. It is completely silent on all of this,” she said. “The onus is on the incumbent prime minister – they get to choose whether they resign. If they do not it is hard for a new government to be formed without dragging the Queen into politics.