Major accuses PM of ‘destroying’ chances of agreement on Brexit

Sir John Major has accused Boris Johnson of "wilfully" destroying the prospects of cross-agreement on Brexit with his Commons onslaught on the opposition.

The former prime minister said Mr Johnson was whipping up "fear and anger" for electoral purposes – a tactic he described as "profoundly un-Conservative".

In a speech to the Centre for European Reform, he said the Tories were acting as a "Brexit Party tribute band" and that no previous government would have behaved in such a "reckless and divisive" manner.

Sir John said Mr Johnson had only "lip service" to the Supreme Court ruling that the prorogation of Parliament had been unlawful and warned he could try to circumvent the law designed to prevent a no-deal break.

He said he feared the Government could try to bypass the so-called Benn Act by an executive Order in Council, suspending it until after October 31 when the UK is set to leave the EU.

"I should warn the Prime Minister that – if this route is taken – it will be in flagrant defiance of Parliament and utterly disrespectful to the Supreme Court," he said.

"It would be a piece of political chicanery that no-one should ever forgive or forget."

Sir John said he increasingly feared the country was heading for a no-deal Brexit, and that any new deal with Brussels was likely to be "flimsy and partial".

He said the Prime Minister had "wilfully destroyed any hope of cross-party agreement" with his attack in the Commons of Wednesday.

At the same time, he warned that a general election – which Mr Johnson is pressing for – would not achieve anything unless the Brexit issue had been resolved first.

"To reinforce their electoral appeal, the Government seems intent on whipping up dissent by using highly emotional and evocative language that can only provoke fear and anger, and fuel grievances against Parliament and the law," he said.

"It means this Government wishes to win re-election, by inciting opposition to the most important bulwarks of our state and its freedom.

"Their approach is profoundly un-Conservative and – whatever its short-term effect – will do permanent damage to the reputation of the Conservative Party.

"I cannot believe any previous government – in our long history – would have even considered such reckless and divisive behaviour."

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John Major listens as Edwina Currie making a point at the beginning at the launch of the party's European Manifesto in London. * 28/9/02: Former Prime Minister John Major and his Conservative colleague Edwina Currie had a four-year love affair when serving as ministers, Mrs Currie said. The affair began in 1984 when Mr Major was a government whip and Mrs Currie a backbencher, she said in her diaries, which are being serialised in The Times newspaper. 22/10/02: Major s secret affair with fellow Tory minister Edwina Currie has put him in the same league as Liam Gallagher and Ozzy Osbourne, a survey found. The once grey man, who had a fling with the outspoken former MP, was ranked seventh in a poll to find the top of the bad behaviour league. Craggy rock legend Mick Jagger topped the chart which was organised to tie in with a new show on the Bravo TV channel, called Hellraisers Handbook.
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John Major, Parliament under Secretary.
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Putting on brave faces at the European Council Summit in Dublin this afternoon (Sat), Prime Minister John Major (right) and Chancellor Kenneth Clarke discuss decisions made at the summit. Photo John Giles.PA.
Prime Minister John Major and Chancellor Kenneth Clarke give a news conference at Westminster today (Friday). Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA
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Baroness Thatcher and Prime Minister John Major applaud the Party Chairman's speech at the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth.
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Left to right, back row: Former Prime Ministers Lord Callahan, Lord Wilson, and Sir Edward Heath. Front row, left to right: Prime Minister John Major, the Princess of Wales, The Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh and former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at Spencer House in London for a dinner given by past and present Prime Ministers and their spouses.
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Prime Minister Tony Blair (RIGHT) walks with former Prime Minister John Major to the House of Lords to hear the speech by Queen Elizabeth II, in a ritual steeped in centuries of pomp and ceremony, 14 May, when she opened the British Parliament with the traditional speech setting out Prime Minister Tony Blair's legislative program for the next 17 months. WPA-ROTA-Eggitt.
Former Prime Minister John Major talks to Prime Minster Tony Blair in Belfast today (Wednesday) while campaigning for a 'YES' vote in the May 22 referendum. Photo by Chris Bacon/PA*EDI*. See Pa story ULSTER Talks
Margaret Thatcher and John Major and the rest of the cabinet are joined by West German leader, Helmut Kohl, at a cabinet meeting. Chancellor Kohl is five from the front of the line of cabinet members on the right.
Prime Minister John Major (left) greets former US President Ronald Reagan at 10 Downing Street, in London. *05/06/04: Former US President Ronald Reagan has died a family friend said.
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L-R: Party leaders John Major (Conservative), Paddy Ashdown (Liberal Democrats) and Tony Blair (Labour) talk before a Beating the Retreat ceremony in London, during the VJ Day Commemorations.
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Sir John said that Mr Johnson's negotiating strategy appeared to be driven by a desire to win the support of the "anti-European hard right" of the Tory Party.

"It was always likely to be a fruitless task," he said.

"They were appeased too much; for too long; and by too many. But they held to their convictions and spread them – often without reason and beyond scruple.

"Their opposition has made a deal almost impossible to obtain."

He warned that such tactics risked alienating the party's "traditional, moderate, middle-of-the-road" supporters.

"Most Conservatives are not a Brexit Party tribute band, nor have we abandoned our core values to find compromise, seek allies, and strive for unity, rather than division and disarray," he said

"We abhor the language of division and hate – and words such as 'saboteur', 'traitor', 'enemy', 'surrender', 'betrayal' have no place in our party, our politics, nor in our society.

"It is emphatically not who we are as a people. And must never be seen as so."

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