9/2/2019 11:12:00 AM UK's Johnson takes aim against opponents of Brexit plans
Danica Kirka Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson is getting tough with members of his Conservative Party who oppose his Brexit plans at the start of what promises to be a pivotal week in British politics.
The so-called rebels were being warned Monday that they will be expelled from the party if they support parliamentary efforts to block a departure from the European Union without a deal. Johnson has called a meeting of his Cabinet on Monday to develop a response to the opposition-led maneuver amid speculation that he will call an election soon if he loses the vote in the House of Commons.
“It would be entirely unreasonable for MPs — having rejected the previous deal three times — to attempt to bind the hands of the prime minister as he seeks to negotiate a deal they can support ahead of EU Council in October,” Johnson spokesman James Slack said.
Opposition parties are pledging to challenge Johnson’s policy that the U.K. will leave the EU on Oct. 31 even if there is no deal. Without such a deal, Britain faces a chaotic departure that economists warn would disrupt trade by imposing tariffs and customs checks between Britain and the 27 other members of the bloc — potentially triggering a drop in the pound and plunging the U.K. into recession.
Johnson insists the potential for a no-deal Brexit must remain an option in negotiations with the EU. The bloc is adamant it will not renegotiate the agreement struck with former Prime Minister Theresa May on the terms of Britain’s departure and the framework of future relations.
The deal was defeated in Britain’s Parliament three times, largely because of opposition to clauses related to keeping open the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Time is short for lawmakers to block a no-deal Brexit. With 59 days before the withdrawal date, and a lengthy parliamentary suspension in the middle, this week is crunch time.
Some of the most important votes are those of Johnson’s own party — particularly those who can’t stomach the notion of a no-deal exit. Conservative former justice secretary David Gauke accused Johnson of “goading” party members to vote against the government so that they can be ousted in favor of lawmakers who support the prime minister’s more extreme version of Brexit.
“It’s obviously a particularly confrontational approach and, I think, designed, frankly, to realign the Conservative Party, to transform the Conservative Party very much in the direction of a Brexit party,” Gauke told the BBC.
Johnson could try to trigger a no-confidence vote, but he would need the support of the Labour Party to pass the measure under rules introduced in a 2011 law that has never been tested.
Labour might see such support as a trap — even though the party has been pressing for a general election since the main opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn’s elevation as leader in 2015. Corbyn urged opposition parties to join together, saying the events in Parliament this week may be the last opportunity to stop a no-deal Brexit.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned that politicians are at a critical juncture.
“In modern history, there’s never been a more important moment for politicians to put country before tribe and national interest before self-interest,” Blair said in remarks at the Institute for Government on Monday.