Tory tensions on Brexit erupt again as Hammond intervenes

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Tory Brexit tensions ripped into the open as former chancellor Philip Hammond expressed anger at reports Conservative MPs who actively oppose a no-deal EU withdrawal will be barred from standing at the next election.

Mr Hammond insisted a no-deal exit would be “undemocratic” as Boris Johnson’s Brexit stance faced cross party opposition in the Commons next week.

Reports that any bid to extend Brexit beyond October 31 to stop a no-deal exit would be treated as a no confidence issue, with supporting Tory MPs stopped from standing for the party, drew a harsh response from the ex-chancellor.

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Mr Hammond tweeted: “If true, this would be staggeringly hypocritical: 8 members of the current cabinet have defied the party whip this year.

“I want to honour our 2017 manifesto which promised a “smooth and orderly” exit and a “deep and special partnership” with the EU.

“Not an undemocratic No Deal.”

The intervention came as Mr Hammond’s successor at the Treasury, Chancellor Sajid Javid backed Mr Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament as the move faces street protests across Britain.

Despite insisting during the Tory leadership campaign that he thought proroguing Parliament was a bad idea, Mr Javid has now insisted the Government needs time to focus on its agenda in the run-up to outlining plans in October’s Queen’s Speech.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is quite usual this time of year, Parliament goes into what’s called a conference recess and it doesn’t usually sit for some time in September and early October.

“It’s right because we are focusing on the people’s priorities.”

Pressed on his comments during the Tory leadership battle that prorogation could be seen as “trashing” democracy, the Chancellor said: “I wasn’t being asked about a Queen’s Speech, a Government setting an agenda, that was a question around suspending Parliament for the sake of it for months on end in order to avoid debate.”

The remarks came as demonstrations opposed to Brexit took place across Britain.

As the PM faced parliamentary attempts to legislate against a no-deal exit from the EU, or to hold a vote of confidence in his Government, Mr Johnson insisted opponents could be making the prospect of a withdrawal from the bloc without an agreement more likely.

Brexit protest
Protesters in York take part in a demonstration against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament (Danny Lawson/PA)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said next week is the “last chance” to stop a no-deal Brexit.

At an event in Glasgow, he said: “Yes, it is the chance and we will do absolutely everything we can to prevent a no-deal Brexit and the Prime Minister taking us into the hands of Donald Trump and a trade deal with the USA.

“That is the real agenda of the Prime Minister.

“There is a lot of work being done in preparation for next Tuesday.”

Tory former PM Sir John Major said he wanted to join a legal challenge to Mr Johnson’s decision to extend the suspension of Parliament over the annual party conference season.

Sir John suggested his experience in Downing Street could assist the High Court in deciding whether Mr Johnson’s actions in proroguing Parliament are lawful.

Mr Johnson defended his decision and warned that efforts to frustrate Brexit on October 31 would be seized on by Brussels to avoid offering a good deal.

Businesswoman Gina Miller – who previously took the Government to court over the triggering of Article 50 to start the Brexit process – said her case would be heard on September 5.

Shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said she has been granted permission to intervene in the judicial review, as she accused the Government of operating from a “far-right playbook”.

Baroness Chakrabarti said: “I am grateful to the High Court for granting me permission to intervene in these important proceedings on behalf of the official opposition.

“Parliamentary sovereignty remains the foremost and overarching principle of our constitution.

“Whatever far-right playbook Number 10 may be copying from, the abusive shutdown of our legislature won’t wash under United Kingdom constitutional law.”

In a separate legal case in Scotland, judge Lord Doherty rejected a call for an interim interdict to block the suspension of Parliament, but said a full hearing would take place on Tuesday.

The controversy rages as the Government plans to launch a major information campaign urging people to get ready for Brexit.

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