Boris Johnson’s government has been branded an “elective dictatorship” after one of his top ministers raised the prospect of ignoring legislation passed by MPs aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit.
MPs opposed to a no-deal departure are expected to begin efforts on Tuesday – when parliament returns from its summer break – aimed at forcing the prime minister to seek a further delay to Brexit in order to avoid the UK quitting the EU with no divorce agreement.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly promised to take the UK out of the EU – with or without a deal – on the current Brexit deadline of 31 October.
His fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, did not commit ministers to automatically accepting any legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit passed against the government’s wishes.
Asked if the government would abide by such legislation, Mr Gove refused to rule out disregarding an order by the House of Commons.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Let’s see what the legislation says.
“You’re asking me about a pig in a poke. And I will wait to see what legislation the opposition may try to bring forward.”
The Tory attack on our democracy is getting worse. Gove has just refused to confirm to @AndrewMarr9 that the government will accept legislation passed by Parliament. This is a startling move beyond anything we’ve ever seen. Johnson government is becoming an elective dictatorship.
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) September 1, 2019
Mr Gove’s comments drew a furious backlash from those opposition MPs committed to blocking to a no-deal Brexit.
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell posted on Twitter: “The Tory attack on our democracy is getting worse.”
He added: “This is a startling move beyond anything we’ve ever seen. Johnson’s government is becoming an elective dictatorship.”
Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, said: “For ministers not to confirm that this government will accept and comply with legislation lawfully passed is breathtaking.
“The prime minister must make a statement on this straightaway. No government is above the law.”
Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, Jon Trickett, claimed that “any move to ignore an act of parliament would be a full-blown attack on our constitution”.
Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesperson, described it as the “latest shocker from a rogue Tory government”.
He asked Mr Gove: “Guess that love of parliamentary sovereignty was just for show Michael?”
SNP MP Pete Wishart said: “”The Tories are jumping up the dictatorial scale at an alarming rate, bounding from plans to suspend parliament and now refusing to say if they will abide by the law.
“It is clear that this government’s gone rogue.”
The government also came under attack from Conservative former minister Guto Bebb, a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign for a second EU referendum.
He said: “This government’s unprecedented willingness to flout the rules is a disgrace to our democracy.
“Not only are they suspending parliament to try and force through a disastrous no deal, but now they are suggesting that, even if parliament passed a law requiring the government to avoid no deal, they might simply ignore it.
“Our very democracy is now under threat from Boris Johnson and his government.”