POLITICS
01/09/2019 13:03 BST | Updated 01/09/2019 13:06 BST

Sunday Shows Round-Up: The No-Deal Brexit Showdown Edition

"General election – bring it on.”

ITN
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer says it is the last chance for MPs to try to stop a no-deal Brexit by passing legislation to ensure it's unlawful for Boris Johnson to do so.

Westminster is gearing up for one almighty showdown this week as MPs battling to block a no-deal Brexit face a race against time to push through legislation before parliament is shutdown. 

So the Sunday politics shows were bound to be essential viewing. 

Here is your complete run-down of the drama. 

Sophy Ridge on Sunday  

First up was former justice secretary David Gauke, one of the leading Tory no-deal rebels in the Commons. 

According to a report in The Sun, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is prepared to sack Conservative MPs who vote for anti-no-deal legislation tabled by Labour this week. 

But Gauke said that he would be prepared to lose the Conservative whip in order to stop Britain crashing out.

He told the programme: “If it is the position now that defying the whip on a European vote is a matter that you lose the whip from the Conservative party, then I think there are quite a lot of Conservative MPs who over the recent months would have lost the whip.

“But sometimes there is a point where you have to judge between your own personal interests and the national interest and the national interest has to come first, but I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

He also confirmed he and other Conservative MPs opposed to a no deal Brexit will meet the prime minister tomorrow.

“I will have an opportunity to speak to the prime minister tomorrow,” he said. “I want to hear from him as to what is his plan to deliver a deal.

“I want to hear how he is going to address that and I want to hear how he plans to deliver the legislation if we get a deal by October 31 because at the moment frankly I can’t see how he has got time to do that.” 

Out batting for the government on Sky News was International Development Secretary Alok Sharma. 

He refused to rule out the Conservative whip being withdrawn from MPs who back measures to stop no deal this week and said his colleagues must decide whose side they were on. 

“I’m not going to pre-empt any discussions that may or may not be taking place around that but there is a fundamental point here which is that we all stood on manifestos saying that we would respect the outcome of the referendum,” he said.

“What I would say to my colleagues is that actually siding with the likes of Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell: are you on the side of people who want to frustrate Brexit or do you want to stand with the people and deliver on the referendum result?”

He also urged would-be Tory rebels to hold their fire while the PM was embarking on a renegotiation with Brussels ahead of a European Council meeting on October 18. 

“We want to have a deal but we won’t know the details of that until the October 18 and as I said, there is plenty of time after that debate not just on the domestic agenda but also for any future deal when it comes to Brexit,” he said. 

Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, meanwhile, said a confidence vote in the government must be an option to stop no-deal. 

“It has to be, it has to be,” he said. “Our view is we have to use every mechanism we possibly can to prevent a no-deal and that clearly is still on the table.”

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn should be allowed the chance to form an alternative government, he added, as pushing anti-no-deal legislation could be difficult given the limited time MPs have.

“It’s very difficult to get legislation through in a matter of a few days and the plan is to know that and that’s why they are using this tactic,” he said. “I think it is a very grubby measure. It’s unprecedented and we can’t allow a prime minister to act in this way.” 

Hitting out over the PM’s shock decision to suspend parliament, he said Johnson was “insulting the intelligence of the British people”. 

It comes as thousands took to the streets to protest against the prorogation. 

He said: “Just because a prime minister is worried that they’ll lose a vote in Parliament, to then use the tactic of closing down parliament, in our parliamentary democracy, is unacceptable.”

He told Ridge On Sunday host Stephen Dixon that “nobody believes that this is the normal process of parliament”, adding: “And to be honest, Conservative MPs who come on the media, and Boris Johnson in particular, I think are insulting the intelligence of the British people if they think we’re going to fall for that.”

McDonnell described Johnson as being “like a dictator”, and said: “Message to Boris Johnson, via you: General election – bring it on.”

BBC Andrew Marr Show

Labour Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said this week was MPs’ “last chance” to pass legislation that would block a no-deal Brexit. 

Opposition plans will require an extension to Article 50, he said. 

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “The length of the extension is secondary, frankly. We have simply got to stop us leaving without a deal.”

Starmer also said Jeremy Corbyn should be given a chance to form a government of national unity if the PM lost a confidence vote.

Asked what would happen if Corbyn could not get enough MPs behind him, Starmer added: “If he can’t, we will address that when we get there.”

The opposition had “been working all summer on all scenarios and we have got plans for every scenario”, he said.

He said the plan is “to prevent Boris Johnson from taking us out of the EU without a deal on October 31”.

He added: “The route will be by legislation because I believe there has got to be legislation in place to lock this and it unlawful for him to take us out without a deal.

“It is a very simple plan.”

Starmer also said the public “don’t like the dishonesty” of the government’s explanation for its prorogation plans.

“They don’t like a PM looking into a camera and saying ‘this has got nothing to do with Brexit’,” he said. “Because they know that is not true.”

Michael Gove, the Cabinet minister responsible for no-deal preparations, revealed that even if MPs do pass legislation instructing the PM to block a no-deal Brexit, Johnson could ignore it. 

Gove three times refused to confirm whether the government would abide by the new law. 

Presenter Andrew Marr asked the minister: “So if Sir Keir Starmer and others are able to get their legislation through the House of Commons and the House of Lords this week instructing the government that it may not leave on October 31 without a deal, is there any way of avoiding that from your point of view?” 

Gove said he would wait to see what was in the bill, adding: “His [Starmer’s] intention is in essence to say that after three years during which the referendum result has not been respected to have more delay and in that sense we see the light at the end of the tunnel. We see a deal coming down the line. 

 
 

Gove was also pressed on whether there would be shortages of fresh food as a result of a no-deal Brexit, 

He said “everyone will have the food they need”, and added: “No, there will be no shortages of fresh food.”

Asked if food prices would increase, Gove appeared to concede they could.

He said: “I think that there are a number of economic factors in play.

“Some prices may go up. Other prices will come down.” 

“And just as we see the light at the end of the tunnel, Keir is saying let’s have more tunnel. 

“I do not believe that the British people want more delay and more prevarication, more denial of their original democratic vote.” 

Marr replied: “The British people want a very clear answer to this question, which is if this legislation goes through both houses of parliament, does the government abide by it?” 

Gove again refused to confirm that Johnson would act on parliament’s instruction. 

“Let’s see what the legislation says,” he said. 

“The answer has to be yes, doesn’t it,” Marr replied. 

Gove continued: “Let’s see what the legislation says. You are asking me about a pig and a poke. And I will wait and see what the opposition try to bring forward.” 

Tory MP Guto Bebb has condemned Gove’s comments as a “disgrace to democracy”.