Hague urges Johnson to rule out suspending Parliament in no-deal Brexit scenario

Boris Johnson has been told by Conservative Party ex-leader Lord Hague to rule out suspending Parliament in order to try to get a no-deal Brexit through if he becomes prime minister.

Lord Hague said the frontrunner in the battle for Downing Street should use a head-to-head TV debate with rival Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday to make clear he would not use a parliamentary “manoeuvre” to impose a no-deal exit.

The call came as former attorney general Dominic Grieve has tabled an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill – intended to keep government in the province running in the absence of the devolved institutions – requiring Parliament to come back to the issue in October.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

The move is designed to try to ensure the next prime minister cannot push through a no deal on October 31, the current EU deadline for agreeing on a deal, simply by suspending – or “proroguing” – Parliament.

Commons Speaker John Bercow is expected to announce on Tuesday whether he has selected the amendment for debate, giving MPs the chance to vote on it.

Mr Johnson, who has said he will take Britain out of the EU by the end of October “do or die”, warned such tactics risked playing into the hands of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.

Lord Hague, who backs Mr Hunt in the Tory leadership race, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is very important that Parliament is able to give its opinion.

“It ought to be unthinkable that we could leave the European Union by a manoeuvre, by a procedural ruse of some kind.”

Tory leadership contest timetable
Tory leadership contest timetable

Asked if Mr Johnson should rule out proroguing Parliament to get a no-deal Brexit, Lord Hague said: “He should rule it out. Yes.”

Lord Hague added: “For a Conservative government to go ahead with a no-deal Brexit in defiance of the pleas of business and farming organisations, and increasing the risks to the union of the United Kingdom, and defying any attempt to have a vote in Parliament would be an extraordinary combination of things to do.”

The two contenders to succeed Theresa May will appear on a live ITV debate at 8pm on Tuesday which could help to decide the outcome of the contest.

Mr Johnson will hope to use the occasion to seal his position as the clear frontrunner, with polls giving him an overwhelming lead among party members.

For Mr Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, it potentially offers a final chance to turn around a contest in which he has been the underdog throughout.

Tory leadership race
Tory leadership race

There has been frustration in the Hunt camp at the reluctance of his rival to engage in direct debate.

Although both men have taken part in numerous hustings – where they take questions separately from party members – Mr Johnson has agreed to take part in only one previous TV debate, when there were still five contenders left in the race.

Ballot papers started going out last week to the party’s estimated 180,000 members, and many will already have voted, meaning that the potential for the debate to alter the course of the contest may be limited.

At a hustings organised by The Daily Telegraph on Monday, Mr Johnson issued a fresh warning to Tory MPs seeking to block a no-deal Brexit.

“If we don’t get Brexit over the line then we face a haemorrhage of support,” he said, according to The Telegraph.

“The risk they run is we will hand, by sheer incompetence, this government to a hard line Marxist.

“I make that point to Dominic Grieve and others who didn’t want to leave the EU. We’ve been very, very negative. We need to be much more robust and confident.”

Mr Hunt said that he believed he would be able to get a new deal with Brussels – but if that proved impossible, he would “batten down the hatches” and prepare for no deal on October 31.

“I strongly believe if we approach this in the right way, there is a deal to be done,” he said, according to The Telegraph.

He went on: “In September I take it to the EU. At the end of September, I make a judgment: ‘Is there a deal to be done here?’

“If there isn’t one, we will batten down the hatches and be ready for October 31.”