Stewart rows back on signal he could back Labour bid to halt no-deal Brexit

Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart has rowed back on suggestions he made that he is instinctively “sympathetic” to a Labour-backed bid in the Commons to block a no-deal Brexit.

The move comes after Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour will use its opposition time on Wednesday to try to give control of Parliament’s agenda to MPs on June 25.

The motion – which has the backing of other opposition parties as well as Tory former minister Sir Oliver Letwin – could be used to try to prevent the next prime minister forcing through a no-deal break with the EU.

Mr Stewart provoked a political stir at his Tory leadership campaign launch when he indicated he was broadly sympathetic to the plan, although he stopped short of saying he would be prepared to vote for it.

But after the event, Mr Stewart tweeted: “For the avoidance of any doubt – I have read the Labour motion proposed for tomorrow and I will not be voting for it.”

Asked about the Labour move at his launch, Mr Stewart had said: “My instinct is that I would be wholly sympathetic to a move that tried to do that,” he said. “I am entirely against no deal.”

It would require only a small number of Conservative MPs to rebel to put the Government in danger of defeat.

The motion has been backed by the Westminster leader of the SNP Ian Blackford, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable as well as Plaid Cymru and Green MPs.

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Labour said if the motion passes: “MPs will have the chance to introduce measures, including legislation, that could help avoid a no-deal Brexit at the end of October.

“It would prevent a future prime minister proroguing Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit against the wishes of MPs.”

The move comes after a number of high-profile contenders for the Tory leadership said they would be prepared to take the UK out of the EU without a deal if no new agreement had been reached by October 31.

Sir Keir said: “The debate on Brexit in the Tory leadership contest has descended into the disturbing, the ludicrous and the reckless.

“None of the likely candidates for the top job has a credible plan for how to break the deadlock before the end of October.

“Instead, we have witnessed candidates openly advocating a damaging no-deal Brexit and even proposing dragging the Queen into politics by asking her to shut down Parliament to achieve this.”


He added: “MPs cannot be bystanders while the next Tory prime minister tries to crash the UK out of the European Union without a deal and without the consent of the British people.

“That’s why we are taking this latest measure to end the uncertainty and protect communities across the country.

“My challenge to MPs who disagree either with a no-deal Brexit or proroguing Parliament is to back this motion and act in the national interest.”

Labour said that, if passed, the motion, though binding, would not in itself legislate to prevent a no-deal.

A party source said: “It provides the first step in the process that can help provide a legislative lock against no-deal on October 31.”

The source said MPs could use a debate on June 25 to “specify a future date to give consideration to legislation to help prevent no-deal on October 31.”