Bercow as caretaker prime minister is 'really unlikely', claim Labour

PUBLISHED: 11:51 06 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:03 06 October 2019

John Bercow thanked his wife and children in an emotional speech announcing his departure as speaker of the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament TV

John Bercow thanked his wife and children in an emotional speech announcing his departure as speaker of the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament TV

Parliament TV

Suggestions that Commons speaker John Bercow could become caretaker-prime minister in a government of national unity have been dismissed as 'fantasy football' by the shadow attorney general.

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Shami Chakrabarti, asked by Andrew Marr on the BBC about Andrew Adonis' latest newspaper column suggesting Bercow could become a caretaker-leader, she said: "If I may say so, we are now getting into almost fantasy football. I think it's unlikely, I really, really do."

Asked if Jeremy Corbyn would step aside as caretaker prime minister to ensure a no-deal Brexit is prevented, she added: "I'm not saying that but I think we're getting into a level of fantasy around these various permutations of unity government, it is just not realistic, I think."

Chakrabarti said stopping a no-deal Brexit has to be the priority, and insisted there are no loopholes in the Benn Act, which is designed to avert such a scenario.

However, she warned that MPs will need to be able to properly scrutinise any deal Boris Johnson proposes.

She said once the Benn Act has been complied with, there should be a general election, "certainly this side of Christmas".

Brexit secretary Steve Barclay told Marr: "Getting Brexit done is the best way to get national unity in this country."

Baroness Chakrabarti, however, questioned how Brexit can be achieved in compliance with the law, and warned that the prime minister speaks with a "forked tongue" on whether he intends to ask the EU for a Brexit extension.

She said the Benn Act was drafted carefully, and that Johnson will not be able to lawfully take the UK out of the EU without a deal, or without parliament's approval.

She said: "It was drafted with great care after a great deal of co-operation across the House of Commons and it is very very specific and explicit about the personal duty on the prime minister to either get a deal through the House of Commons or persuade the House of Commons that no-deal is plausible, or he has to write a letter.

"The letter has been drafted and attached to the Act to the European Union asking for more time."

She added: "He seems to have a very casual relationship with the law. He seems to think he is above the law.

"As the Supreme Court showed us a few weeks ago, he is not. No-one is above the law, even a British prime minister."

She said it is important to see what a Boris Johnson deal might look like, and that Parliament must be able to scrutinise his proposals. She said his current proposals "cannot get through".

She said, however, that if a deal was approved by Dublin and Brussels, it would be something that would be "more likely" to pass Labour's tests.

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