Boris Johnson could be in contempt of court for asking the EU to delay Brexit, Labour’s John McDonnell has told Sky News.
The shadow chancellor accused him of “behaving like a spoilt brat” and engineering “theatre” by sending the request in an unsigned letter alongside a second personal plea to Brussels not to grant any delay.
Mr Johnson has called it “parliament’s letter, not my letter”, with EU Council President Donald Tusk confirming he would now consult with EU leaders about how to respond.
Meanwhile Michael Gove, who is in charge of Brexit no-deal planning, warned the risk Britain leaves the bloc on 31 October with no withdrawal agreement “has grown”.
He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday the government was activating the next stage of its no-deal preparation plans known as “Operation Yellowhammer”.
That is because MPs have withheld their support for Mr Johnson’s new deal secured with the EU last week until all the necessary legislation to implement it has been passed, to avoid an accidental no-deal.
Mr Gove insisted Brexit would still happen on Halloween and revealed he had “put money” on it in a bet with Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
A source later insisted it was about the size of the majority for the deal – not whether Brexit would happen on time.
Despite the government’s latest loss in parliament in a historic Saturday sitting yesterday, there were positive signs Mr Johnson’s deal could have enough support from MPs to pass.
Amber Rudd, who quit the Conservatives last month, told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday the deal was “less good” than the one secured by former prime minister Theresa May – but she would still back it.
Lucy Powell, a Labour MP who thinks Brexit should happen on 31 October with a deal, also told the programme that “the votes probably are there now for a deal”.
The next few days and weeks are the “final chance” to shape Brexit, she added.
Mr McDonnell downplayed suggestions of a heavy punishment for Labour MPs who back the deal, saying they “have to be listened to”.
But he added “I’m not even sure if the Speaker would allow it” because of a parliamentary rule that says the same motion cannot be voted on twice, and Mr Johnson already tabled a vote on his deal on Saturday – which he pulled at the last minute.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage also backed a short Brexit delay to hold a general election, because he complained the EU wanting to keep employment legislation, social protections, environmental law and taxation on a level-playing field is “not taking back control of our laws”.
The DUP – the government’s Northern Irish confidence and supply partners – have said the deal “undermines the integrity of the union” and are facing calls from Labour to open talks to break the deadlock.
“If you want to work with us to improve the situation we’re in, our door is open to that discussion,” the shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told them on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, adding he would push for a new referendum again next week.
But Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesperson, said they didn’t want another referendum – “merely implementation of the first”.
“We want to leave as one nation,” he explained. “That remains our goal. If the prime minister remains willing to achieve that outcome he will find DUP MPs as willing partners in that project.”
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab promised to see if further reassurances could be provided to the DUP.
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