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U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond warned Conservative leadership candidates that a government that tries to force a no-deal Brexit on Parliament risks being brought down in a no-confidence vote.
As the race to replace Theresa May heats up, Hammond said Parliament strongly opposes leaving the European Union without a deal and any prime minister who ignores that “is not going to survive very long.”
Asked whether he could vote against the government on a confidence motion, Hammond refused to rule out the possibility.
“This is a very difficult situation,” he told the “Andrew Marr Show” on the BBC. “It would not just challenge me, but many of our colleagues and I hope we will never get to that position.” He dismissed talk of renegotiating the Brexit withdrawal agreement before the new October deadline as a “fig leaf” for a policy of leaving on no-deal terms.
May announced on Friday that she will step down after failing to deliver Brexit, and the contest to succeed her is well underway. Several candidates say they’d be prepared to leave the EU on Oct. 31 with no deal in place if necessary. They include Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey.
Parliament would find it almost impossible to stop a prime minister intent on a no-deal Brexit, according to the Institute for Government. The only option to block it would be a vote of no confidence, which could topple the government and bring the Labour Party, led by hard-line socialist Jeremy Corbyn, to power.
Johnson, the former foreign minister, is the clear favorite with bookmakers to succeed May. Popular with grassroots Tories, he to expected to use the party’s losses to Nigel Farage’s anti-EU Brexit Party in European Parliament elections to argue that Britain must leave the EU in October, with or without a deal.
“We can and must deliver,” he wrote in his weekly Daily Telegraph column. “No one sensible would aim exclusively for a no-deal outcome. No one responsible would take no deal off the table. If we are courageous and optimistic, we can strike a good bargain with our friends across the Channel, come out well and on time – by October 31 – and start delivering on all the hopes and ambitions of the people.”
But under Tory leadership election rules, Johnson must first win the support of Conservative members in Parliament, many of whom view him as a controversial figure lacking attention to detail.
Confirming his own candidacy over the weekend, Raab, a former Brexit secretary, described himself as a “details-oriented man” and stressed his background as a lawyer.
On Sunday, Environment Secretary Michael Gove became the eighth Conservative to enter the leadership race, casting himself as a unity candidate.
Gove and Johnson famously fell out during the 2016 campaign to replace David Cameron after the Brexit vote. Gove had supported Johnson’s bid, only to withdraw his endorsement and declare he would seek the leadership himself. The decision ended the hopes of both men, with Gove facing accusations of treachery.
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