A last-minute High Court legal injunction could be used to block Boris Johnson from proroguing parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit, MPs hope.
Westminster leaders banding together to stop the UK from crashing out of the EU on October 31 have agreed a fresh attempt to seize control of the parliamentary timetable.
But if a new bid to force the prime minister to seek an extension to the Article 50 deadline fails and Johnson looks set to ask the Queen to suspend parliament, MPs could ask a High Court judge to step in, HuffPost UK has learned.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met with Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, among other senior MPs, on Tuesday.
Together, they agreed to table legislation that could tie Johnson’s hands when MPs return from their summer break next week.
A Downing Street source has called the plot “utterly perverse” but MPs have said a no-deal Brexit could spark mass job losses, riots and food and fuel shortages.
Talks between Westminster leaders will intensify over the next 48 hours.
“This is a government which is threatening the population of the United Kingdom,” said Blackford after the meeting in Westminster.
He added: “This is a battle. This is a fight. But we need to recognise the challenge that we face.
“I firmly believe that we will win this battle.”
Asked whether MPs could seek a High Court injunction at the last minute to stop Johnson from advising the Queen to prorogue parliament, Blackford said: “I think it is the case that we recognise that we may have to take quick decisions and there are those that are examining very carefully the legal options which are there.”
It is unclear whether any injunction could bind the UK’s prime minister.
Blackford added: “What is being suggested is absolutely unprecedented and you wouldn’t expect people to sit back and take this without looking at the mechanisms that they have at their disposal.”
Labour’s initial proposal that it would table a vote of no-confidence in Johnson’s government, with no-deal opponents backing Corbyn as a caretaker PM, has been shelved as would-be rebel Tories are said to be reluctant to put their opponent in Number 10 – but the plan could still be used as a last resort, it is understood.
Over the next two days, senior MPs will attempt to anticipate Johnson’s counter moves and unite around a strategy.
Amid speculation Johnson wants to force a November 1 general election, MPs also fear that triggering a national poll could see the UK “fall out” of the EU during the campaign.
Blackford said: “What we’ve agreed to do is use legislation as the route to removing the threat of leaving the European Union on a no-deal basis at the end of October.
“There are in effect a number of stages to that but in principle involves us seizing control of the agenda.
“Parliament has to have the ability to bring forward legislation and we have to do that when parliament returns next week.”
A joint statement from Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, Plaid Cymru and the Independent Group for Change reads: “The leaders of the opposition parties held a productive and detailed meeting on stopping a no-deal exit from the EU.
“Jeremy Corbyn outlined legal advice he has received from Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti which calls Boris Johnson’s plans to suspend parliament to force through a no-deal ‘the gravest abuse of power and attack upon UK constitutional principle in living memory’.
“The attendees agreed on the urgency to act together to find practical ways to prevent no-deal, including the possibility of passing legislation and a vote of no-confidence.
“The party leaders agreed to further meetings.”
A No 10 source accused the group of an attempt to sabotage the government.
They told the BBC: “It’s utterly perverse that Corbyn and his allies are actively seeking to sabotage the UK’s position. This coalition of anti-democrats should be honest with the British public, they are against us leaving the EU no matter what.”
Meanwhile, a cross-party group of anti-no-deal MPs, including Labour’s Yvette Cooper, Conservative Caroline Spelman and Lib Dem Norman Lamb, has also written to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, asking him to chair a new citizens’ forum on Brexit.
It reads: “Since the referendum three years ago, there has been no government process to involve people in the detail of the debate or to bring people together. Unless that happens, government and parliament decisions are unlikely to be sustainable.
“The debate can’t just be in Westminster and it can’t just be among politicians. We need to be bold and find new ways to involve the public in these debates in a thoughtful and purposeful way.”