UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has set out his plan to stop Boris Johnson from leading the country into what many fear could be a catastrophic ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
The Labour Party leader has announced he will begin consideration of a vote of no confidence in Johnson’s government “at the earliest opportunity” and seek to form a “strictly time-limited” caretaker government, in a letter sent Wednesday to leaders of other UK parties and senior backbenchers in Parliament in the hope of rallying their support.
Corbyn did not specify a date for a no confidence vote, however it would have to be after parliament returns from summer recess on September 3 and before the current Brexit deadline of October 31.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a parliamentary majority of one. This makes him vulnerable to losing a vote of no confidence. And while bringing down his government wouldn’t automatically stop a no-deal Brexit, it could trigger a series of events that leads to him requesting a Brexit extension.
If the vote of no confidence is successful, Corbyn says in the letter that he would then ask permission from the House of Commons to form a “strictly time-limited” caretaker government with the aim of calling a general election “and securing the necessary extension of Article 50 to do so”.
Corbyn promises that – in the case of a general election – Labour would offer the public a second chance of voting on whether to leave the European Union at all. He says one of the options on the ballot would be to remain in the EU.
This is in stark contrast to Johnson’s “do or die” policy of leaving the EU by October 31.
“This government has no mandate for No Deal, and the 2016 EU referendum provided no mandate for No Deal,” Corbyn writes.
The letter – seen by CNN - is addressed to Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts, SNP Westminster Group leader Ian Blackford, and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.
Swinson has signaled the Liberal Democrats would consider backing Labour to stop Brexit. “Working with other parties is the only way to stop Boris, and stop Brexit,” Swinson tweeted Tuesday, in response to a call from Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson for his party to work with the Lib Dems to stop a no-deal Brexit.
Swinson and Watson also appeared together at an event Tuesday, where they discussed stopping a no-deal Brexit with young people. “We should work together to solve Brexit, to stop Boris Johnson and his anti-democratic attempts to crash out and maybe give us a general election during the middle of that,” Watson said. “I think we’ve got the good will and those relationships to make that work positively because our country is facing a crisis,” Swinson added.
The letter also addresses Conservative pro-Remainers Dominic Grieve and Oliver Letwin, plus Independent Nick Boles – who quit the Conservative party after his plan for a softer Brexit was defeated in parliament. Former Conservative cabinet minister Caroline Spelman, who has campaigned against a no-deal Brexit, was also sent the letter.
Corbyn says he would welcome the chance to discuss his proposals with them, which he hopes “can halt the serious threat of No Deal, end the uncertainty and disarray, and allow the public to decide the best way ahead for our country.”
“Jeremy Corbyn wants to cancel the referendum and argue about Brexit for years. I am committed to leading our country forward and getting Britain out of the EU by October 31st,” Johnson tweeted Wednesday.
He also spoke about no-deal Brexit in a Facebook live video from Downing Street Wednesday, saying: “Our European friends are not moving in their willingness to compromise, they’re not compromising at all on the Withdrawal Agreement even though it’s been thrown out three times, they’re sticking to every letter, every comma of the withdrawal agreement – including the backstop – because they still think Brexit can be blocked in Parliament.
“And so the awful thing is, the longer that goes on the more likely we will be forced to leave with a no-deal Brexit, that’s not what I want,” he warned.
Since taking office, Johnson has brought many hardline Brexiteers into his cabinet and onto his team of advisors, and in the past few weeks, no deal has gone from something barely anyone believed could happen to arguably the most likely outcome.
Should Parliament topple the government, it becomes very likely that Johnson would have to call a general election. When that election would be has become one of the most talked-about issues in Britain and in Brussels. Some think that Johnson would call for an election after the Brexit date, meaning in theory that he can run the clock down to a no-deal Brexit with nothing in his way.
If no-deal really is as catastrophic as some have predicted, then it’s hard to see how that would help Johnson during an election campaign. At that point, he would own no-deal.
If he loses a confidence vote, however, Johnson could theoretically play another card. He could request an extension, then immediately unleash hell on the people who made him do it – the majority of Parliament who do not want to leave without a deal. That could turn a general election into a fight between the people who “stole” Brexit and the man who, with a bigger majority in Parliament, would finally get the job done.
Should that happen and should Johnson win a parliamentary majority, then expect to see the language harden. Johnson will have a mandate to deliver a no-deal Brexit and he will have the majority to do it. He will probably revert to his plan of trying to scare Brussels into making concessions.