Boris Johnson would commit a “betrayal” of the 2016 referendum if he delivered a no-deal Brexit by listening to the “unelected” advisers “who pull the strings” of his government, former chancellor Philip Hammond has argued.
The former chancellor shattered the Tory party truce that emerged after Johnson became prime minister, urging him to commit to a “genuine negotiation with the EU”.
Hammond, who is leading a band of 20 rebel Tory MPs, argues Johnson’s call for the EU to remove the Irish border backstop plan is “a bar so high that there is no realistic probability of a deal being done”.
He goes on that no-deal would be a “betrayal” that risks the “break up the UK” and would leave a “diminished and inward-looking little England”.
Hammond takes aim at Johnson’s most senior aide, Dominic Cummings, for attempting to force through a no-deal Brexit by making demands that Brussels “cannot, and will not, accede to”.
He says: “The pivot from demanding changes to the backstop to demanding its total removal is a pivot from a tough negotiating stance to a wrecking one: the unelected people who pull the strings of this government know that this is a demand the EU cannot, and will not, accede to.
“Not just because they will be stubborn in their defence of the single market (although they will), but because the fragility of their own coalition of 27 means any attempt on their side to reopen the package would see their unity collapse. They will not take that chance and the smart people in Whitehall know it.”
Hammond goes on that Remain and Leave supporters during the referendum campaign wanted a deal, and “most people in this country want to see us leave in a smooth and orderly fashion that will not disrupt lives, cost jobs or diminish living standards”.
He adds: “No-deal would be a betrayal of the 2016 referendum result. It must not happen.”
Meanwhile, Speaker John Bercow warned he “will fight with every breath in my body” any attempt by the PM to suspend parliament to force through no-deal against MPs’ wishes.
And Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said she would urge Johnson not to take that controversial move as part of his “do or die” commitment for Brexit by the October 31 deadline.
Bercow told an audience at the Edinburgh Fringe festival that he “strongly” believes the House of Commons “must have its way”, in remarks reported by the Herald newspaper.
“And if there is an attempt to circumvent, to bypass or – God forbid – to close down parliament, that is anathema to me,” he said.
“I will fight with every breath in my body to stop that happening.”