Raab refuses to rule out suspending Parliament in Brexit ‘test of nerve’

The possibility of suspending Parliament and dragging the Queen into a constitutional row should not be ruled out in order to secure Brexit, Dominic Raab said.

The Tory leadership contender said it was “very unlikely” it would be necessary to prorogue Parliament in order to prevent MPs blocking a no-deal Brexit, but taking the option off the table would be a mistake.

Mr Raab said it was a “test of nerve” and his rivals would weaken the UK’s position in negotiations with Brussels by ruling out options to guarantee Brexit.

Critics of the approach have warned that prorogation would involve the Queen in a constitutional crisis, because formally it is the monarch who ends a session of Parliament.

Bur Mr Raab said it was unlikely to come to that because MPs’ powers to block a no-deal Brexit were limited.

Pointing to Institute for Government analysis, he said it would be much more difficult “for Parliament to engage in the guerrilla warfare sabotage of a government” that was resolved to leave by October 31.

But in a message to his rivals – and an appeal to hardline Brexiteers on the Tory benches to back his campaign – Mr Raab said it was necessary to demonstrate a willingness to take such measures.

“I think it’s wrong to rule out any tool to make sure that we leave by the end of October,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

“The exam question in this contest is ‘who can be trusted to lead us out by the end of October and end this paralysing uncertainty’.”

Mr Raab said he would go back to Brussels with a “best, final offer” including the removal of the Irish backstop, but said there could be no further delay and the UK would be prepared to leave without a deal, falling back on World Trade Organisation rules.

“I think anyone who is talking about delay or who is taking WTO off the table is having the perverse effect of weakening our negotiating position in Brussels, that’s the lesson of the last three years,” he said.

“It’s a test of nerve here and if candidates cannot stand up their resolve to lead us out by the end of October in a leadership contest, what chance would they have under the heat of the negotiations in Brussels?”

Peterborough by-election change in vote share
Peterborough by-election change in vote share

Mr Raab said the Peterborough by-election, in which the Tories finished third, and the drubbing in the European elections, showed it was “devastating for the Conservatives if we don’t keep our promises on Brexit”.

He added: “What we can’t have is this paralysing uncertainty, bad for the economy, bad for trust in democracy, bad for the Conservatives – as we are seeing – of just going on and on with this prolonged torture of haggling with the EU when we haven’t got a deal in sight.”

Following Theresa May’s formal resignation as Tory leader, the starting gun has been fired for the race to replace her.

The nomination process will take place on Monday, with candidates requiring eight MPs to back them in order to enter the race, with the first round of voting on Thursday.

The leadership contest has been shaken up by Michael Gove’s admission that he took cocaine 20 years ago.

The Environment Secretary told the Daily Mail he “deeply regrets” taking cocaine “on several occasions”.

Mr Raab, who has admitted taking cannabis as a student, said “I certainly don’t see it barring him from this race in any way”, adding: “I rather admire his honesty.”