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Nick Boles, who quit the Conservative Party this year over its refusal to vote for a Brexit deal, said lawmakers trying to stop the U.K. leaving the European Union in chaos must focus on passing a law to force Boris Johnson to seek an extension rather than trying to push him from office.
The opposition Labour Party has proposed that members of Parliament who oppose a no-deal Brexit should pass a motion of no-confidence in Johnson, and then appoint its leader Jeremy Corbyn as a caretaker prime minister with a mandate to both delay Britain’s departure from the EU and then call an election. That got a lukewarm response from other parties, and Corbyn invited other MPs, including Boles, to meet him on Aug. 27 to discuss options.
Boles responded Thursday that he wasn’t able to attend the meeting, but called for the focus to be on legislative options.
“I, for one, will not support a vote of no confidence while the Johnson government continues to pursue a Brexit deal,” Boles wrote. “Nor would I be able to support any government in which you were prime minister, however temporary its mandate,” Boles said, adding that even some Labour MPs agree.
Boles instead proposed trying to seize control of the parliamentary timetable to pass a law compelling the government to seek a Brexit extension from the EU. The risk, he said, is that Johnson might respond by trying to call a general election -- which Boles and other MPs would need Corbyn’s help to prevent.
Under the 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act, a national ballot can be called only if two-thirds of MPs opt for it, or if the government loses a confidence vote. Unless either of those happen, the next election isn’t scheduled until 2022.
Boles urged Corbyn to rule out supporting an election until Brexit had been delayed. “Until you do so, people will continue to doubt the sincerity of your declared opposition to a no-deal Brexit,” he wrote.
Meanwhile Jo Swinson, leader of the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, has agreed to attend Corbyn’s meeting, but said in a statement it had to focus on “workable options.”
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