Corbyn tells government: no-deal Brexit during election period would be unconstitutional

PUBLISHED: 22:30 08 August 2019

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Jeremy Corbyn has asked the Cabinet Secretary to rule that allowing the UK to leave the EU without a deal during an election campaign would be unconstitutional.

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In a letter to Sir Mark Sedwill, the Labour leader said it would be and "anti-democratic abuse of power" if Boris Johnson allowed this to happen.

Corbyn's argument is based on purdah rules, which exist to prevent major policy decisions being taken during election time.

The call comes amid claims from Johnson's special advisor Dominic Cummings that the prime minister would not stand down if he lost a vote of no confidence. He could instead try to hang onto power beyond October 31, when the UK would leave the EU with or without a deal.

MORE: 'Gravest constitutional crisis since the Civil War' if Johnson ignores no-confidence vote

Labour are expected to table a no-confidence vote after parliament returns from summer recess on September 3 - a vote which Johnson, whose majority is just one MP, is vulnerable to losing.

If lost, Johnson would have 14 days under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act to gain a new majority and win another vote of confidence, or face a general election. This would allow him to choose an election date set for soon after the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.

Corbyn's letter to Sir Mark is an effort to ensure that this plan of action is ruled unconstitutional. Under the rules of purdah, policy decisions on which a new government "might be expected to want to take a different view" should be postponed until after polling day.

He asked Sir Mark to confirm that Johnson's government would seek another extension of Article 50 if this timing were to play out.

"Forcing through no-deal against a decision of parliament, and denying the choice to the voters in a general election already under way, would be an unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power by a prime minister elected not by the public but by a small number of unrepresentative Conservative Party members," he wrote.

"A Labour government will never support a no-deal exit, so would of course 'want the opportunity to take a different view'."

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who supports the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, said: "It would be a democratic outrage to force through such a damaging path during an election to determine where we go next.

"Dominic Cummings, an unelected official who has been handed control of government, has already been found in contempt of parliament. He cares very little for the state of our democracy and won't let the law stop him in pursuit of his twisted ideological fantasy.

"Our democracy is not a toy for the Brexiters to mess around with."

But Brexiteers argue that parliament has already voted to leave the EU, voting to trigger the Article 50 process and passing legislation setting Britain's withdrawal date for October 31.

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