Ken Clarke: I’m willing to lead the country to stop a no-deal Brexit

Ken Clarke. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA.

Ken Clarke. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Pro-EU Tory grandee Ken Clarke has said he is willing to lead a government of national unity to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The former chancellor gave his support to a proposal by Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson for an emergency government led by him or Labour's Harriet Harman.

Clarke said it was "not inconceivable" that a government of national unity may be needed to resolve the impasse, suggesting politics was in a similar situation to 1931 and the two world wars.

He told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "If it was the only way in which the plain majority in the House of Commons that is opposed to a no-deal exit could find a way forward... I wouldn't object to it, if that was the judgment of people, the only way forward."

Clarke continued: "A government of national unity is just one of the things that might be called for - it's not inconceivable - I mean we're in a similar situation to 1931 and rather wildly to the two world wars when the same thing happened.

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"But there's an awful lot to be gone through before then and I haven't been taking part in any talks with anybody for the last fortnight. I've been on the phone to one or two people in the last couple of days just to find out what the devil's going on."

Clarke - known as the father of the house, a title bestowed on the longest-serving male MP - said such an administration would be a "single-issue, short-term government" with a policy to "sort out Brexit".

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He suggested it would seek an extension to Britain's EU membership and put together a "mandate for discussions that the majority of the House of Commons approved of, and a mandate that the Europeans would not resist...

"Then, once it had got that under way and set, it would call an election probably or resign and let's see if parliament could form a party government of any kind that took it all forward and started resuming other politics."

But he said Corbyn would have to stand aside and let somebody else lead it because that is the "only way to get a multi-party group to come together".

Nigel Evans, a member of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs, told the same programme: "We've filled the vacancy with Boris Johnson and so I really don't know what Ken is talking about."

Evans added: "It does seem to be Westminster meets La La Land because it's not as if these ideas are half-baked, I really don't think they've been anywhere near an oven."

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