Phillip Hammond: There are enough MPs to get anti-no-deal bill over the line

PUBLISHED: 12:11 03 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:11 03 September 2019

Phillip Hammond has said he believes there is enough support from MPs to pass a bill that would force Boris Johnson to extend Article 50 if he cannot secure a deal with the EU. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

Phillip Hammond has said he believes there is enough support from MPs to pass a bill that would force Boris Johnson to extend Article 50 if he cannot secure a deal with the EU. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

Tory rebel MP Phillip Hammond has said he believes there is enough support from MPs to pass a bill that would force Boris Johnson to extend Article 50 if he cannot secure a deal with the EU.

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Around 22 Conservatives including the former chancellor are estimated to be set to vote against the government on the bill.

The bill, drafted by a cross-party group, aims to compel the prime minister to seek the extension if he is unable to get backing from parliament for no-deal, or for a new Withdrawal Agreement by October 19.

Remainers to force three-month Brexit delay if government cannot secure a deal

The MPs are planning to use an emergency debate to take control of the House of Commons order paper and table the bill. The move is a break with constitutional convention and would need to be approved by the speaker of the house, John Bercow.

But if allowed, Hammond told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme that "there will be enough people for us to get this over the line today".

Boris Johnson has been holding last-ditch meetings with around 10 of the Tory rebels in attempts to persuade them otherwise. But Hammond, leaving Downing Street, told reporters that he had not been convinced by the prime minister's arguments.

The prime minister's meeting follows letters from Number 10 threatening to deselect Tories who vote to allow the opposition to take control of the order paper.

In the Radio 4 interview, Hammond said the threats had not worked, and labelled it "rank hypocrisy" for the government try to deal with dissenters in the party with such a heavy hand.

The Runnymede and Weybridge MP said: "Many colleagues have been incensed by some of the actions over the past week or so, and I think there is a group of Conservatives who feel very strongly that now is the time to put the national interest ahead of any threats to us personally or to our careers.

"I think there will be enough people for us to get this over the line today.

"All kinds of threats are being made, most notably to withdraw the whip, but these are threats being made by a government, eight Cabinet members of which have themselves defied the Conservative whip this year on the issue of Brexit.

"It would be rank hypocrisy to withdraw the whip."

MORE: All of these cabinet ministers have defied the government whip this year

Hammond told the BBC that the prime minister faces the "fight of a lifetime" if the government attempts to prevent him from standing at the next election.

Asked whether Downing Street had to power to prevent him, he said: "I don't believe they do and there would certainly be the fight of a lifetime if they tried to."

Asked whether he would be prepared to take such a fight to the courts, he said: "Possibly. A lot of my colleagues have come under immense pressure. Some have responded to that by saying, Enough, I'm going. That is not going to be my approach. This is my party. I have been a member of this party for 45 years."

In what was seen as a swipe at Dominic Cummings, he said: "I am going to defend my party against incomers, entryists, who are trying to turn it from a broad church to narrow faction.

"People who are at the heart of this government, who are probably not even members of the Conservative Party, who care nothing about the future of the Conservative Party, I intend to defend my party against them."

The former foreign secretary said it was his understanding that Cummings was "not and never has been" a party member.

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"I haven't heard a denial from Downing Street, but perhaps we will hear one if that is not the case," he added.

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