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Brexit: Opposition parties ‘will not yet push for confidence vote’

Jo Swinson, Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Saville Roberts and Ian Blackford

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Getty Images

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Opposition party leaders are due to meet in Westminster – left to right: Jo Swinson, Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Saville Roberts and Ian Blackford

Opposition parties will not call for a vote of no confidence in the government to topple the PM this week, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has said.

She was speaking after cross-party talks on tactics for preventing a no-deal Brexit.

The SNP’s Ian Blackford said his party was keen to push for an early no confidence vote but wanted to take the other parties with it.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said they were “united about stopping no-deal”.

The group also requested an emergency debate on disclosure of no-deal planning papers, but this was rejected by the Speaker John Bercow.

Chancellor Sajid Javid has said a no-deal Brexit “may well happen” on 31 October, despite a law aimed at avoiding it.

The law, known as the Benn act, forces the government to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline if a deal is not agreed by 19 October, the day after a two-day EU summit.

Ms Swinson, Mr Blackford, Ms Lucas, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts, and Independent Group for Change leader Anna Soubry met opposition leader leader Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leader’s Westminster office.

Following the meeting, Ms Lucas said: “I don’t think anyone is expecting a vote of no confidence this week but what we are expecting is to continue to discuss the best tactics and so forth in order to make sure that Boris Johnson doesn’t go ahead and defy the law and take us out with no deal.”

Ms Soubry said: “There is no vote of no confidence this week.”

She said they had also proposed an emergency debate on no-deal planning, but the Speaker John Bercow refused it.

Earlier, Chancellor Sajid Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “every government should observe all laws at all times”, adding: “We’re taking a careful look at that law.”

“We’re also very clear that our policy has not changed. We will leave on October 31,” he said.

“And if you are going to ask me next, how we going to do that? We’re not going to set that out right now.”

Mr Javid said there could be no more “dither and delay and we will leave if we have to without a deal on October 31”.

When asked if he knew how the government would be able to bypass the Benn act, he said: “I think I do.

“The intention of the law is clear and I do think it has absolutely made it harder for the government to get the deal that we all want to see. That said, it can still be done.”

‘Watertight’ legislation

But independent MP Nicholas Soames, who was expelled from the Conservative Party after rebelling against the PM in a bid to prevent a no-deal Brexit, said the Benn act was “watertight”.

“Quite how they propose this (a no-deal Brexit) to happen is a mystery,” he told BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

“The prime minister and the government must obey the law and Parliament will make sure that happens.”

He said if there was a “reasonable deal” brought to Parliament he would support it.

Another rebel, former Tory MP Dominic Grieve told Sky News that Mr Johnson would be “dismissed” as prime minister by the Queen if he fails to seek a delay to Brexit in the event he has not secured a deal by 19 October.

What is the Benn Act?

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Reuters

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Hilary Benn presented the bill in his name to Parliament

When Mr Johnson talks about the “surrender bill”, he is referring to the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act, also known as the Benn Act after Labour MP Hilary Benn, who introduced the legislation to the Commons.

The act – which became law earlier this month – stipulates the prime minister will have until 19 October to either pass a deal in Parliament or get MPs to approve a no-deal Brexit.

Once this deadline has passed, he will have to request an extension to the UK’s departure date to 31 January 2020 from the EU.

If the EU responds by proposing a different date, the PM will have two days to accept that proposal. But during this two-day period, MPs – not the government – will have the opportunity to reject the EU’s date.

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