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Boris Johnson suspended Parliament to ‘silence’ MPs over Brexit, Supreme Court told

11 hours 16 minutes ago
Supreme Court
Members of the media and protesters outside the Supreme Court in London

Boris Johnson suspended Parliament in order to “silence” MPs who he believed would try to disrupt his Brexit plans, the Supreme Court has been told.

Lawyers challenging the Prime Minister’s decision to “prorogue” Parliament for five weeks said there was "strong evidence" that he saw the Commons as "as an obstacle" to his plans to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October.

The move is being challenged in the highest court in the land after Scottish and English courts gave contradictory judgments on the issue earlier this month.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh found the move to have been “unlawful”, days after the High Court in London dismissed a challenge against it as a “political” issue that was not for the court to decide.

The Government has insisted that its decision to suspend Parliament until the Queen’s Speech on 14 October was so that ministers could introduce a fresh legislative agenda.

But Lord Pannick, on behalf of campaigner Gina Miller, who is appealing against the High Court ruling, said: "The exceptional length of the prorogation in this case is strong evidence that the Prime Minister’s motive was to silence Parliament for that period because he sees Parliament as an obstacle to the furtherance of his political aims."

The QC’s remarks came on the first day of the Supreme Court hearing, which is scheduled to last for up to three days and is being heard by 11 judges.

He added that it was "remarkable" that the PM had not made a witness statement explaining "why he decided to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for a period as long as five weeks and there is no evidence from the Cabinet Secretary or any other official explaining that".

He continued: “Parliament will be silenced for a substantial part of the period leading up to the deadline of 31 October, when issues of grave national importance are being addressed - or not addressed - by the Government...

"The evidence shows that the Prime Minister at best improperly regards Parliament as an irrelevance.”

Opening proceedings, Lady Hale, the president of the Supreme Court, said the judges faced “serious and difficult questions”, given that "three senior judges in Scotland have reached a different conclusion to three senior judges in England and Wales".

Lord Keen, acting on behalf of the Government, later argued against the claim that the progogation amounted to five weeks given Parliament would not have sat during the Autumn party conference period.

He said: "Although the planned prorogation will be 34 days, the expected conference recess of three weeks would mean that only one to three days would be lost in the week commencing 9 September and four in the week commencing 7 October.

"A total of seven days and yet later in his opinion he expresses his opinion about the extraordinary length of the prorogation on the basis that its five weeks rather than seven days.

"It was in reality seven sitting days that were going to be lost, not five weeks of sitting days.”

When asked what the practical reason was for losing seven days, he responded: "Why should it not be seven? Why should it one day, 14 days, how is the court going to judge what is an appropriate period for a prorogation determined by the executive in exercise of the royal prerogative?"

Lord Keen also told the court that the Government would take "all necessary steps to comply with any declaration" if the Prime Minister's decision was found to be unlawful in the final ruling.

Nicholas Mairs

Justice Secretary refuses to rule out proroguing Parliament for a second time

18 hours 27 minutes ago
Robert Buckland
The Government's appeal over the prorogation will be heard by the Supreme Court

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has refused to rule out the possibility of the Government proroguing Parliament for a second time next month.

He said it was "idle" to speculate on the possibility of MPs being sent home again in the run-up to Brexit day on 31 October.

Parliament is currently prorogued until 14 October, when the Queen's Speech will set out the Government's legislative agenda.

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's top adviser, raised the possibility of a second suspension at a meeting of government advisers last week.

Asked on Radio Four's Today programme whether it could happen again, Mr Buckland said: "Harold Wilson said a week is a long time in politics, it seems like an hour is a long time in politics at the moment.

"For me to sit here and imagine what might happen at the end of October, I think, is idle.

"What I do know, if we are able to, we will have a Queen’s Speech in mid-October, there will be debate during that time and a vote as well, and perhaps a series of votes.

"Parliament has already shown its power it had a week in September where it made pretty significant legislation. I think the idea that somehow Parliament has been prevented from having its voice doesn’t seem to be borne out by events frankly."

Last week, the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that the prorogation was unlawful and had been a "tactic to frustrate Parliament" over Brexit.

The Supreme Court started hearing the Government's appeal against the judgement on Tuesday.

Anahita Hossein-Pour

John Major to challenge Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament at Supreme Court

21 hours 36 minutes ago
John Major
Sir John Major is due to speak for 20 minutes at the Supreme Court.

Sir John Major is to publicly argue that Boris Johnson acted unlawfully by suspending Parliament.

The former Prime Minister is due to speak for 20 minutes at the Supreme Court, which is hearing two appeals over Mr Johnson's controversial decision.

The court hearing will begin on Tuesday and could run until Thursday, meaning the judgement may not be released until next week.

At the Court of Session in Edinburgh last week, judges ruled that the PM had effectively broken the law by recommending to the Queen that Parliament be prorogued until 14 October.

Ministers have insisted it was a routine move ahead of a Queen's Speech on that date setting out the Government's legislative agenda.

But the Scottish judges said the true motive was to "stymie" MPs' opportunity to debate Brexit in the run-up to the UK's scheduled departure from the EU on 31 October.

The Supreme Court will hear the Government's appeal against the ruling, as well as an appeal on a separate case by anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, backed by Sir John Major.

At the High Court in London last week, judges rejected Ms Miller's case, insisting that the row was a matter for politicians to consider rather than lawyers.

Speaking last month, Sir John said: "I intend to seek to assist the Court from the perspective of having served in Government as a Minister and Prime Minister, and also in Parliament for many years as a Member of the House of Commons.”

However, critics have pointed out that Sir John himself prorogued Parliament earlier than necessary ahead of the 1997 general election, thereby dodging a Commons debate on the cash for questions controversy.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has told the BBC he will "wait and see what the judges say" before deciding to recall Parliament early.

Downing Street officials have already stated that MPs will return to the Commons if the Supreme Court rules against the Government.

Kevin Schofield

Neil Coyle MP: There is no such thing as a good Brexit, so Labour should back revoking Article 50

22 hours 14 minutes ago
Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn campaigning for Remain during the 2016 referendum.

Labour should follow the Lib Dems by calling for Article 50 to be revoked, says Neil Coyle MP.

Forty-seven 47 Labour MPs did not vote to trigger Article 50 in 2017, including me. I remain proud of that vote.

The damage done to the UK since justifies that position on a daily basis. Jobs lost, the economy damaged, the pound hit, investment falling in crucial sectors, and a Government trying to subvert democracy by unlawfully suspending Parliament. No MP should be proud of contributing to that dreadful reality.

Theresa May was forced to give MPs a vote on Article 50 by the courts. She called it with no plan, no agreement drafted, with no detailed discussions with EU partners underway, and with no agreement within her own Cabinet, let alone one that could possibly carry her ERG backbenches. She twice had to seek an extension to Article 50. The EU provided the last extension on condition the UK ‘use the time wisely’. No one can seriously suggest this has happened.

A handful of Labour colleagues, including Stephen Kinnock, have suggested May’s deal should be brought back with tweaks. That solves nothing; it would be defeated a fourth time unless it guaranteed a confirmatory referendum. Kinnock’s small grouping claims everyone wants a deal now, ignoring the six million people who signed the ‘Revoke Article 50’ petition. He also worryingly parrots the ‘biggest democratic exercise’ myth about the 2016 referendum, aiding Banks and Farage’s narrative whilst ignoring the undermining of democracy in the corrupt funding, deceit, and law-breaking involved in the Leave campaign. It is also the case that more people voted in the 1992 general election but perhaps that bit of democracy is understandably deleted from the collective Kinnock family memory. 

It is astonishing to see a small number of Labour colleagues pretending that an agreement would be anything other than a downgrade for their constituents and the wider UK compared to full EU membership. May’s agreement ignored 80% of the economy in the service sector and would harm my London constituency as well as huge swathes outside the capital. Manufacturing has already been dealt a hammer blow and May’s plan was simply not enough to guarantee jobs for the future. Re-hashing those proposals is no solution and repeated extensions of Article 50 whilst jobs are lost and investment plummets is not a serious Labour alternative.

Revoking Article 50 allows us the potential of staying in, but also forces those still seeking to deliver Brexit to come up with a viable agreement; one which does not risk the Good Friday Agreement and could command a Commons majority. If they are able to find such a proposal, Article 50 could then be re-triggered. Those unlikely circumstances seem unattainable, but it would be a better and more rational step to pause and try to identify such an approach than either catastrophically crashing out or fudging a ‘holding’ deal in the interests of an artificial deadline which is already damaging the country.

Voters need clarity. Labour’s constructive ambiguity should have ended long before the EU elections. I support revoking Article 50 and have run my re-selection campaign advocating that approach, winning the backing of members.

I am jealous of the clarity the Lib Dems now have on this crucial issue despite the fact their latest recruits, including Umunna, Wollaston and Gyimah, all voted to trigger Article 50 and kickstart the chaos.

Neil Coyle is the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark.
 

Member of Parliament

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know as the Supreme Court showdown over Parliament's suspension begins

23 hours 8 minutes ago
Joanna Cherry and Gina Miller
SNP MP Joanna Cherry and pro-EU businesswoman Gina Miller

On Tuesday, Supreme Court justices will begin to examine if Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks in the run-up to the Brexit deadline was legal. Here's what you need to know.

HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?

The case at the highest court in the land will last three days - and follows separate cases against the Government over the Prime Minister's advice to the Queen to "prorogue" Parliament until 14 October - one of the longest periods in modern history.

While the act of prorogation, which tees up a Queen's Speech to introduce a new legislative period, is not controversial in itself, opponents have said the timing in the run-up to the Brexit deadline has been used to shut out MPs.

As the final court of appeal, the Supreme Court panel will decide whether to back the Scottish Court of Sessions's ruling that prorogation was unlawful, or the separate judgment in England that said it was a political issue, and not for the courts to interfere.

WHAT DID THE COURT OF SESSION RULE?

The Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh last week found that the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen to prorogue parliament was unlawful, following a case brought by 75 MPs.

That came a week after a judge at the Court of Session rejected an attempt by a cross-party group of politicians to have the suspension declared as such.

A Government spokesman said the suspension was “necessary” to allow a new legislative agenda to be proposed.

But the three judges ruled that “its purpose was to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, which was a central pillar of the good governance principle enshrined in the constitution.”

They said: "The Lord President, Lord Carloway, decided that although advice to Her Majesty the Queen on the exercise of the royal prerogative of prorogating Parliament was not reviewable on the normal grounds of judicial review, it would nevertheless be unlawful if its purpose was to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, which was a central pillar of the good governance principle enshrined in the constitution; this followed from the principles of democracy and the rule of law."

If the Supreme Court upholds that judgment, the Commons could be forced to reconvene immediately, sparking a fresh round of Parliamentary drama as Boris Johnson faces extra scrutiny Number 10 was not banking on.

Furthermore, if the Court decides that, because it was unlawful, Parliament was never in fact prorogued, the passage of bills from the last session could continue as before.

Raphael Hogarth, an associate at the Institute for Government, said: “If the Supreme Court rules next week that the prorogation was unlawful, then I’d expect Parliament to be sitting again in very short order.

“The mechanics of that depend on what the court says. The court might say that Parliament was never prorogued at all in the eyes of the law and so is actually still sitting after all. Or, the Government might need to recall Parliament immediately.”

WHAT DID THE HIGH COURT FOR ENGLAND AND WALES RULE?

A separate challenge to the prorogation, brought forward by pro-EU activist Gina Miller, was quashed by the High Court of England and Wales earlier this month on the grounds that the issue was “political” and therefore a “non-justiciable exercise of prerogative power” - effectively arguing that the courts did not have a role in sorting this one out.

In their judgment, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton and President of the Queen's Bench Division Dame Victoria Sharp said: "We concluded that the decision of the Prime Minister was not justiciable (capable of challenge). It is not a matter for the courts."

They added: "The Prime Minister's decision that Parliament should be prorogued at the time and for the duration chosen and the advice given to Her Majesty to do so in the present case were political.

"They were inherently political in nature and there are no legal standards against which to judge their legitimacy."

They said it was "impossible for the court to make a legal assessment of whether the duration of the prorogation was excessive by reference to any measure".

Ms Miller’s team had argued that it was an "unlawful abuse of power" and one that breached the legal principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.

Her QC, Lord Pannick, said the PM's decision was "extraordinary" - both because of the "exceptional length" of the suspension and because Parliament would be "silenced" in the crucial weeks up until the deadline.

WHAT HAPPENED IN NORTHERN IRELAND?

Still with us? How about another case just to complicate things?

A judge at the High Court in Belfast last week threw out claims that a no-deal Brexit would breach the Good Friday Agreement.

The case was brought forward by Raymond McCord, a campaigner whose son was killed by loyalist paramilitaries, and two others.

Last week Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey dismissed the argument against prorogation within the case, given it was already at the centre of the cases in England and Scotland.

On that concerning the impact on the peace process, Lord Justice McCloskey said: “I consider the characterisation of the subject matter of these proceedings as inherently and unmistakably political to be beyond plausible dispute.

"Virtually all of the assembled evidence belongs to the world of politics, both national and supra-national."

SO HOW MIGHT THE SUPREME COURT RULE?

The Institute for Government has said that while the Supreme Court will "probably" try to render English and Scottish law as consistent - it could "in theory agree with both the English High Court and the Scottish Court of Session, and rule that the prorogation was lawful under English law but not under Scottish law. In that case, the prorogation would be unlawful in the UK overall."

Ministers have said they will abide by the Supreme Court's ruling - although quite how such an unprecedented constitutional moment will play out is anybody's guess.

Alternatively, if the Government's move is found to be lawful, the prorogation will continue as planned, in what will be seen as a major boost for Number 10.

Nicholas Mairs

Luxembourg PM tears into Boris Johnson after he ducks press conference due to protests

1 day 11 hours ago
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson arrives for talks with Xavier Bettel.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister has torn into Boris Johnson over his approach to Brexit negotiations after protesters forced him to duck a press conference.

Xavier Bettel accused the Prime Minister of failing to come up with concrete proposals for replacing the Irish backstop - the UK's key demand in the ongoing talks.

Speaking after talks between the pair, he said he and fellow European leaders will not accept any responsibility “for the mess we are in at the moment”.

Mr Bettel's rant came as he stood next to an empty podium when Mr Johnson was supposed to be standing for a joint-press conference.

But Mr Johnson refused to take part in the outdoor event because of the presence of noisy protesters nearby.

Downing Street sources said they had asked for the press conference to take place inside, but had been rebuffed by their hosts.

Hitting out at the lack of detailed alternatives to the backstop being provided by the UK, Mr Bettel said: "I won't give an agreement to ideas. We need written proposals and the time is ticking. So stop speaking, but act."

Asked about comments by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay suggesting a post-Brexit transition period between the UK and EU could be extended until 2022, the Luxembourg PM said: "People want clarity and as soon as possible. To speak of new delays just to postpone things is not in the interests of our citizens.

"The fact is our citizens want to have certainty. As long as they don't know what is going to happen they don't know what will be their own future.

"So even we say it's for one year or more, or two years and this time will be needed to find new decisions.

"This is a nightmare."

'USE YOUR TIME WISELY'

Criticising MPs for repeatedly rejecting the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May, Mr Bettel said: "Don’t make it like the European Union would be the bad guy not accepting decisions that the UK proposes.

“They accepted it and it is not under my responsibility if they are not able to find a United Kingdom back in London and in the House of Commons.”

He added: "So now it's on Mr Johnson. He holds the future of all EU citizens and every EU citizen living in the UK in his hands.”

Gesturing towards the empty podium where the PM would have been, Mr Bettel said: “It's his responsibility. Your people, our people, count on you. But the clock is ticking.

“Use your time wisely."

Mr Johnson - who had earlier had lunch with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker - said he had chosen not to appear at the press conference because his “points might have been drowned out”.

Asked whether proposals have been made to the EU on the backstop, after Mr Juncker said Brussels was still waiting for them, he said “papers have been shared”.

“But we are now in the stage where we have to really start accelerating," he said. "that was the agreement today.”

The PM said he could “see the shape” of a deal emerging, but it would require the “system by which the EU can control the UK after we leave, the so-called backstop, to go”.

And he said: "I think we've got actually just the right amount of time to do a deal between now and October 17-18.

“But if we can't do it by then we will make sure we can come out on October 31 - deal or no deal."

Alain Tolhurst

Jean-Claude Juncker says EU has still not seen Boris Johnson's plan for scrapping backstop

1 day 13 hours ago
Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker
Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker had lunch in Luxembourg.

Jean-Claude Juncker has accused Boris Johnson of failing to come up with any alternatives to the Irish backstop, just weeks before the UK is due to leave the EU.

The European Commission president spoke out after having lunch with the Prime Minister in Luxembourg.

Mr Johnson has insisted that the backstop - the mechanism to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland - must be removed if a new Brexit deal is to be struck.

According to Number 10, the Government has come up with "a number of workable solutions" to break the deadlock.

But in a statement following the lunch, the Commission said: "President Juncker recalled that it is the UK's responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement.

"President Juncker underlined the Commission's continued willingness and openness to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop. Such proposals have not yet been made."

Earlier, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "We have been having detailed discussions with European counterparts. We’ve brought to the table a number of areas where workable solutions can be found to remove the backstop.

"The UK has also presented ideas in the areas of customs and manufactured goods and issues related to the political declaration.

"The Prime Minister has said that in terms of publishing those proposals, it’s not helpful to negotiate in public in that way."

Downing Street insisted the lunch, which was also attended by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, had been "constructive" and revealed that negotiations will now be ramped up as the clock ticks down to the 31 October deadline.

A spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister reconfirmed his commitment to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and his determination to reach a deal with the backstop removed, that UK parliamentarians could support.

"The Prime Minister also reiterated that he would not request an extension and would take the UK out of the EU on 31 October.

"The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis.

"It was agreed that talks should also take place at a political level between Michel Barnier and the Brexit Secretary, and conversations would also continue between President Juncker and the Prime Minister."

Kevin Schofield

Labour set for conference showdown on Brexit as members call on party to back Remain

1 day 15 hours ago
Labour party conference
Labour are set to have another row over their Brexit stance at the party conference in Brighton.

Labour are set for a fresh showdown on Brexit as it emerged the the vast majority of motions submitted for its party conference urge it to wholeheartedly back staying in the EU.

Ahead of their annual get together in Brighton next week, analysis reveals of the 90 motions sent in by constituency branches about EU policy, 81 urge Jeremy Corbyn to support remain in a second referendum. 

Shadow minister Marsha de Cordova is among those backing the call for Labour to harden its stance - saying the party has tried to “fudge our line before and failed dramatically”.

So far Mr Corbyn has said if Labour gets in to power they would offer people another vote on EU membership, with a “credible option to leave” on the ballot paper alongside remain.

But members want the party leader to go further and make it official policy to support staying in, a stance supported by prominent frontbenchers John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry, Keir Starmer and Diane Abbott.

Mr Corbyn has not said which side, if any, Labour would officially back in such a campaign.

And campaign group Another Europe is Possible have warned against “backroom manoeuvres” being used to stop this being debated and voted on, saying it “will be a disaster for morale and for Labour’s prospects”.

They say not a single motion submitted to conference so far supports Brexit, which “matches polling among Labour members, which shows that more than 90% support Remain”. 

One of their supporters, the Battersea MP Ms de Cordova, said: “There is no middle ground when it comes to campaigning in an EU referendum.

“We tried to fudge our line before and failed dramatically. Our members and activists won’t forgive us if we do that again.

“It’s time to take a side and expose Brexit as the completely destructive Tory project it is.”

And Michael Chessum, national organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “Support for an explicit Remain stance is evidently overwhelming.

“If backroom manoeuvres are deployed to stop this being debated on conference floor will be a disaster for morale and for Labour’s prospects.

“We need a debate and a vote at conference.”

PoliticsHome revealed last week the party's Brexit stance dominated a meeting of trade union bosses, Mr McDonnell, Mr Corbyn and senior Labour aides at the TUC's annual conference.

It is understood Unite general secretary Len McCluskey made it clear to the Labour leader the party must not commit to backing Remain if it wins an election.

One source said: "Len dominated the whole thing, with nobody else putting up any real fight.

"He said we should be clear that we will negotiate a Labour version of Brexit and there will be no attempt to advocate Remain in the referendum."

The Labour Party have been contacted for comment.

Alain Tolhurst

Boris Johnson slaps down Brexit Secretary over suggestion EU transition period could run until 2022

1 day 15 hours ago
Boris Johnson and Stephen Barclay
Boris Johnson's office distanced itself from the suggestion of a longer transition period floated by Stephen Barclay.

Downing Street has distanced itself from a suggestion by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay that the UK could still be following EU rules in 2022.

Number 10 made clear that Boris Johnson was "not going to" extend the current Brexit transition period, which is due to run until the end of 2020 if a fresh divorce deal is agreed with Brussels.

Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement thrashed out by Theresa May, Britain would maintain close ties with the EU until December next year, despite no longer being a member.

The point of the "implementation period" is to allow businesses to fully prepare for life outside the bloc.

But Mr Barclay said on Sunday that Britain could stay in the transition arrangement until the end of 2022 to allow ministers to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

He said: “It is the case that operationally these issues do not apply until the end of the implementation period, which is December 2020 or one or two years later by mutual agreement."

But that idea was rapidly shot down by Boris Johnson's official spokesman on Monday, as Number 10 made clear that the Prime Minister would not seek an extension to the 2020 deadline.

"We are not extending the implementation period, in the event of a deal, beyond December 2020," he said.

He added: "It would require the Prime Minister to request an extension to the implementation period and he's not going to do that."

If the UK leaves the EU on 31 October, that would leave just 14 months for alternative arrangements to the Northern Ireland backstop to be up and running for 1 January, 2021.

But an interim report published by the Alternative Arrangements Commission - backed by MPs Nicky Morgan and Greg Hands - in June said replacements for the plan to avoid a hard Irish could take up to three years to finalise.

'REJECT ANY DELAY'

The rebuke for Mr Barclay came as Mr Johnson began his first face-to-face talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Speaking ahead of the meeting in Luxembourg, a Downing Street source said Mr Johnson would tell Mr Juncker that he will "reject any delay offered" and take Britain out of the bloc without a deal at the end of next month if no fresh agreement is reached.

The move comes in spite of MPs passing a law ordering him to extend Article 50 - the formal process which began Britain's EU exit - if he cannot reach a deal by mid-October.

Mr Johnson meanwhile wrote in the Telegraph: "If we can make enough progress in the next few days, I intend to go to that crucial summit on Oct 17, and finalise an agreement that will protect the interests of business and citizens on both sides of the Channel, and on both sides of the border in Ireland.

"I believe passionately that we can do it, and I believe that such an agreement is in the interests not just of the UK but also of our European friends."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Dominic Raab drops fresh hint Boris Johnson could defy MPs' Brexit extension law

1 day 18 hours ago
Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab insisted the Government was committed to leave the EU by 31 October

Dominic Raab has dropped a fresh hint that Boris Johnson could defy a cross-party extension law designed to block the UK crashing out of the EU.

The Foreign Secretary said the legislation - which he described as “very flawed” - needed to be looked at carefully, even as he insisted the Government still planned to leave the EU by 31 October.

MPs this month rushed a bill through Parliament which requires the Prime Minister to request an extention to Article 50 - the formal process that triggered the Brexit process - if he cannot agree a deal with the EU by mid-October.

Speaking to the Today programme, Mr Raab said: “I think the precise implication of the legislation needs to be looked at very carefully, we’re doing that, but the Prime Minister is very clear he wants to lead us out of the EU at the end of October and he’s focused on getting a deal.”

Pressed on whether the Government would defy the law, he added: “We’ve been clear, we’ll comply with the law but the Prime Minister has been absolutely clear we need to bring this process to some finality.

“So we’ll go for the deal, that’s why he’s out in Luxembourg, the Prime Minister, talking to the President Jean-Claude Juncker.

“But we’re also going to be very clear with our EU partners that we leave at the end of October.”

The comments came as Mr Johnson is expected to tell European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that he will “reject any delay offered” and take the UK out of the bloc on 31 October if no further deal is reached as they hold their first face-to-face meetings on Monday.

Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Johnson meanwhile dismissed the cross-party act as "completely contrary to the UK’s interest" and said it had given the impression "that the UK is no longer either fully able or determined to leave on Oct 31".

But he warned: "In so far as that impression has been given, it is wrong. We will leave by that date - deal or no deal. Yes, it may now be harder to get a deal, since MPs seem set on tying the Government’s hand behind its back. But we are working flat out to get one."

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson also raised eyebrows as he compared the UK’s plight to the Incredible Hulk ahead of his trip to the continent, stressing that Britain will break out of its EU “manacles” on 31 October.

However, speaking to the Today programme on Monday, former justice secretary David Gauke warned the Prime Minister: “Maybe the Incredible Hulk doesn't have to comply with the law, but the British government does."

Anahita Hossein-Pour

Liberal Democrats pledge to cancel Brexit without a referendum if they win election

1 day 21 hours ago
Jo Swinson
Jo Swinson addresses the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth.

The Liberal Democrats will revoke Article 50 to stop Brexit if they win the next election, its members have agreed.

In a significant ramping up of the party's anti-EU opposition, members at its annual conference in Bournemouth on Sunday overwhelmingly backed a motion which orders the Lib Dems to formally pull the plug on Britain's EU membership in the event they can form a majority government.

The motion says the party will "campaign to Stop Brexit in a General Election, with the election of a Liberal Democrat majority government to be recognised as an unequivocal mandate to revoke Article 50 and for the UK to stay in the EU".

The move comes after years of campaigning for a second Brexit referendum, which the party has said it will continue to do unless it secures a majority at the next election.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said: "The Liberal Democrats are crystal clear: if we win the next election, we will stop Brexit by revoking article 50 and remaining in the European Union.

"People deserve better than Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Brexit. At the next election, voters can instead choose the Liberal Democrats, and our clear and unequivocal policy to Stop Brexit.

"Before an election is called, the Lib Dems will continue to work cross-party to prevent a dangerous No Deal Brexit, and support a People’s Vote, with the option to remain. We will do all we can to fight for our place in Europe, and to stop Brexit altogether."

Ex-Labour MP Chuka Umunna, giving his first conference speech since joining the Liberal Democrats, said the move would "stop this national embarrassment and enable us to focus on the things that really matter".

But former Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes spoke out against the motion, warning it would "take the focus away" from securing a second referendum.

The move meanwhile comes after initial caution from the Lib Dem top team over a pledge to revoke Article 50, the formal  mechanism under the EU's Lisbon Treaty which kicked off Britain's exit from the bloc.

Speaking in May, then-leader Sir Vince Cable rejected calls from the Change UK group of MPs for Parliament to revoke Article 50.

"It wouldn't be outrageous but it would be unsatisfactory," he said. 

"We got into this mess as a result of having a referendum in the first place and that's the only satisfactory way out of it."

But, speaking on Sunday, Lib Dem Europe spokesperson Tom Brake said: "Liberal Democrats have been fighting to stop Brexit for over three years. We are the biggest, strongest party for Remainers across the UK.

"This Brexit policy makes it completely clear that a Liberal Democrat majority government, with Jo Swinson as Prime Minister, would revoke Article 50 and keep the UK in the EU."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson asked David Cameron whether Michael Gove was 'a bit cracked' after 2016 betrayal

1 day 21 hours ago
Michael Gove and Boris Johnson
Michael Gove and Boris Johnson on the 2016 campaign trail.

Boris Johnson questioned Michael Gove's state of mind after his former Vote Leave ally abandoned him during the 2016 Tory leadership race, David Cameron has said.

Mr Johnson asked whether Mr Gove was "a bit cracked" after he pulled his support for the then-frontrunner's leadership bid and launched his own ill-fated push for the top Conservative job.

The claim is contained in Mr Cameron's memoirs, which are being serialised in The Times, and which have already seen the former Prime Minister train his fire on key figures in the 2016 campaign to take Britain out of the European Union.

The ex-Tory leader reveals that he texted Mr Johnson on the day of Mr Gove's move, saying: "You should have stuck with me, mate."

Mr Johnson replied: "Blimey, is he [Michael] a bit cracked? Great speech last night, everyone watched and thought we’d all gone insane to lose you and people were looking at me as if I was a leper, but you had eleven hard years of party leadership and six superbly as PM, more than I will ever do. Boris."

According to the former PM, Mr Johnson also said he was "absolutely miserable" that the success of the Vote Leave campaign had driven Mr Cameron from office in the days after the vote - while Mr Gove was said to be "more shocked than anyone" about the outcome.

Then-Chancellor George Osborne also felt that Mr Gove's move to kill off Mr Johnson's campaign was "great news" because it would leave both candidates "dead in the water", according to the ex-Tory leader.

Mr Cameron writes: "George sat there beaming at the TV. 'We have taken Boris out. Now on to Port Stanley!' he said, meaning it was Michael’s turn to fall next."

The former Prime Minister's latest revelations come after Home Secretary Priti Patel shrugged off his volley of attacks on the 2016 Brexit campaign.

Mr Cameron accused Brexiteers of behaving "appallingly" in the run-up to the vote, and said he had wanted to sack Ms Patel, the then-employment minister, but feared making her a "martyr" to the anti-EU cause. 

But Ms Patel shot back: "We've all moved on. And the fact of the matter is we're now working to deliver that referendum mandate. That is so important. There is no point going over the past."

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay meanwhile paid tribute to Mr Cameron's record on the economy. But he added: "There’s a book to sell."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson to tell Jean-Claude Juncker he will 'reject any Brexit extension' as he heads to Brussels

1 day 21 hours ago
Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker
Boris Johnson will hold his first face-to-face meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday.

Boris Johnson will tell Jean-Claude Juncker that the UK is not prepared to delay Brexit beyond 31 October - despite MPs passing a law ordering him to do so if he cannot reach a deal.

The Prime Minister will hold his first face-to-face meeting with the European Commission President on Monday lunchtime, and said he was working "flat out" to strike a fresh agreement with Brussels by the 17 October European Council summit.

But a Downing Street source said Mr Johnson would tell the Commission president he will "reject any delay offered" and take Britain out of the bloc without a deal at the end of next month if no fresh agreement is reached.

They added: "Any further extension would be a huge mistake. It is not just a question of the extra dither and delay - it is also the additional long months of rancour and division, and all at huge expense."

The move comes in spite of MPs rushing a law through Parliament which orders the Prime Minister to seek a fresh extension of Article 50 if no agreement is reached by 19 October.

Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Johnson dismissed the cross-party act as "completely contrary to the UK’s interest" and said it had given the impression "that the UK is no longer either fully able or determined to leave on Oct 31".

But he warned: "In so far as that impression has been given, it is wrong. We will leave by that date - deal or no deal. Yes, it may now be harder to get a deal, since MPs seem set on tying the Government’s hand behind its back. But we are working flat out to get one."

The Prime Minister added: "If we can make enough progress in the next few days, I intend to go to that crucial summit on Oct 17, and finalise an agreement that will protect the interests of business and citizens on both sides of the Channel, and on both sides of the border in Ireland.

"I believe passionately that we can do it, and I believe that such an agreement is in the interests not just of the UK but also of our European friends."

Calling for end to the "whole divisive debate" over Brexit, Mr Johnson meanwhile urged MPs to "get this thing done" and "set this country on a brighter, more cheerful, more confident and more global path".

But the PM's upbeat comments came as Brussels hit back at his comparison of the UK's plight to that of the Incredible Hulk.

Mr Johnson had told the Mail on Sunday that Britain stood ready to break free of the EU’s "manacles", adding: “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets.”

But Guy Verhofstadt, the chief representative for the European Parliament, branded the comparison to the comic book character "infantile".

"Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile," he said. "Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed? Is this Boris Johnson whistling in the dark?," he said.

One EU source meanwhile told The Guardian: "It all makes it look like it’s a bit of a joke. We are talking about something extremely serious. The consequences of no deal will be extremely serious and it looks like this is being treated as a game in which you are the hero sort of story rather than [dealing] with real lives."

Home Secretary Priti Patel on Sunday insisted that the "entire machinery of government" was now focused on Britain striking a Brexit deal with the European Union, while Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay insisted the UK was now in the "landing zone" for an agreement.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Brexit pressure on Jeremy Corbyn as Sadiq Khan says Labour is a 'party of Remain'

2 days 16 hours ago
Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan
Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan.

Labour is a "party of Remain" that should back staying in the EU in any second referendum, according to Sadiq Khan.

The London mayor waded into the party's battle over its Brexit position as he also told the BBC's Andrew Marr that he personally backed "removing" Article 50.

Jeremy Corbyn has already committed Labour to holding a referendum on any Brexit deal agreed by the Commons, with the option of staying in the bloc on the ballot paper.

But the party has not spelled out whether its election manifesto will contain a pledge to campaign for Remain in all circumstances, with fierce debate on the issue expected at this month's party conference in Manchester.

A string of frontbenchers including Emily Thornberry, Tom Watson and John McDonnell have already made clear that they would campaign to Remain if a fresh public vote was called.

Joining those ranks, Mr Khan said: "I'm quite clear: we're a Remain party." 

And he added: "I think a negotiation with the EU won't made things more favourable than remaining in the EU."

Mr Khan meanwhile denied that those Labour politicians urging the party to campaign to stay in the EU risked undermining efforts by Jeremy Corbyn to bring Brexiteers and Remainers together.

He added: "Jeremy Corbyn deserves huge credit for the movement over the last two or three years, putting aside political interest in relation to not having a general election and working with other parties to avoid no-deal Brexit. 

"And actually, I support the position of the party, which is on a ballot to have a credible Leave option and in my view the best option which is to remaining the EU."

But he added: "My view, though is as a party we should campaign for [Remain]... Whether it's a no-deal Brexit, whether it's the deal negotiated by Theresa May, whether it's an improvement that a Labour government may achieve - that is far less favourable than the option of staying in the EU. And once we've got the public vote we should campaign to remain in the EU."

Mr Khan's intervention came as a group of Labour councillors urged the party to commit to an unequivocal pro-Remain position.

A letter to the Labour's ruling National Executive Committee - seen by The Observer - urges the party to "campaign unambiguously and energetically for a public vote on Brexit and to endorse a ‘remain and transform’ position in all circumstances". 

'PANIC'

Elsewhere in his BBC interview, Mr Khan also repeated his call, first made in earlier this year, for the Prime Minister to revoke Article 50 - a move that goes much further than Labour's own position on Brexit.

"The mistake made by Theresa May was serving a notice to quit before realising the terms of our exit," the London mayor said.

“Nobody sensibly would serve notice to quit their accommodation before they’ve found new digs. Nobody would quit their job before they’ve found a new job."

Mr Khan insisted the UK could then re-serve Article 50 if the British public decided that they wanted to leave the EU in a referendum.

"Since December I’ve said what we we should do is is take away the panic, remove Article 50 to give us time to resolve negotiations with the EU to understand what we want," he said.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Priti Patel says 'entire' government is focused on getting an EU deal

2 days 17 hours ago
UK and EU flags - Brexit
Priti Patel said the Government was 'focused on getting that deal' with the EU.

The "entire machinery of government" is now focused on Britain striking a Brexit deal with the European Union, Cabinet minister Priti Patel has declared.

Boris Johnson has previously said Britain will leave the EU "do or die" on 31 October, and has pumped billions into Whitehall's preparations for a no-deal outcome.

But the Home Secretary insisted the Prime Minister is now focused on striking an agreement with the European Union, as he prepares to head to Brussels for talks with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

She told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "The Prime Minister is fully committed to getting a deal. 

"And I... hope the whole country has heard, certainly through what we've seen in Parliament over the last few weeks, that sheer commitment and determination to ensure that we leave on 31 October and also that the entire machinery of government now is focused on getting that deal and is planning and preparing to leave on 31 October with a deal."

The comments come after MPs rushed a law through the House of Commons aimed at forcing the PM to seek a Brexit extension if he cannot reach an agreement. 

The move is designed to thwart a no-deal Brexit, but Downing Street said Mr Johnson would tell the European Commission president on Monday that Britain is "leaving on 31 October, come what may".

"Some MPs have been peddling a myth that I am not serious about getting a deal," the Prime Minister said.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. I am striving for a deal and I think we can achieve this. I will commit UK officials and my lead negotiator to work flat out to come up with a new agreement without being trapped into EU laws."

Ms Patel - who voted against Theresa May's EU Withdrawal Agreement three times - also made clear that she would vote for any deal signed off by Mr Johnson.

The comments come despite some fellow Tory Brexiteers suggesting that the Prime Minister's central demand - removing the Northern Ireland backstop - will not be enough to win them over.

But Ms Patel said of Mr Johnson: "I'm a member of his government and when he brought me into government along with other colleagues as well we were clear to him as he was to us as well that our focus is on leaving October 31st with a deal. 

"And our job right now... is to absolutely give confidence to securing that deal and backing the Prime Minister in everything that he is doing to secure that deal through the negotiations that are currently underway."

Asked if she would vote for Mr Johnson's deal if an alternative Northern Ireland border plan could be found, Ms Patel said: "Absolutely. We need to leave. This is no longer a discussion about the previous deals and everything that's happened in the past."

Meanwhile Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the Government was now in the "landing zone" for an agreement with the EU.

"There are extensive talks been happening at a technical level but also at a political level," the Cabinet minister told Sky's Sophy Ridge.

"We can see a landing zone in terms of a future deal but there is significant work still to do. So the talks tomorrow will be an important step forward as part of that.”

'RESPECT' SUPREME COURT

He also insisted that the Government would abide by whatever the Supreme Court decides on Tuesday, with a ruling due after Scotland's top civil court found Mr Johnson's advice to the Queen calling for the temporary shutdown of Parliament had been unlawful.

However, the Scottish verdict came in the same week the high court in London and the high court in Belfast respectively dismissed cases challenging the PM's decision to prorogue Parliament as well as the impact of a a no-deal Brexit on Northern Ireland.

"Of course the court in England took a different view to the court in Scotland," Mr Barclay said ahead of Tuesday's hearing at the final court of appeal for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

He added: "We respect the decision of the court, it’s right that this matter now goes to the UK Supreme Court and the government will abide by the decision of the UK Supreme Court, that is the normal flow of these things and that’s absolutely proper."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Priti Patel shrugs off David Cameron attack on 'liar' Brexiteers as she says Tories have 'moved on'

2 days 17 hours ago
Priti Patel
Mr Cameron said he wanted to fire Ms Patel but steered clear because she would become a Brexit 'martyr'.

Priti Patel has brushed off a stinging attack on her and her Brexiteer colleagues from David Cameron.

The Home Secretary said the Tories had "moved on" as she declared: "There is no point going over the past." 

Ms Patel is one of several leading Leave campaigners to come in for criticism in the former prime minister's memoirs, which are being serialised in The Sunday Times.

Mr Cameron accuses the Brexit campaign - fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove - of behaving "appallingly", and claims the current occupant of Number 10 only backed Brexit "because it would help his political career".

But the former PM says it was the behaviour of Ms Patel, who was an employment minister at the time and joined the Vote Leave campaign, that "shocked me most".

"She used every announcement, interview and speech to hammer the government on immigration, even though she was part of that government," Mr Cameron says, adding: "I was stuck, though: unable to fire her, because that would make her a Brexit martyr." 

Ms Patel, now the Home Secretary under Mr Johnson, said it had been a "privilege" to serve in the Cameron government, and said she had "enjoyed working with him".

But she told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "Obviously, you know, the referendum has happened. We've all moved on. And the fact of the matter is we're now working to deliver that referendum mandate. That is so important.

"There is no point going over the past."

And, in a thinly-veiled dig at Mr Cameron, the Cabinet minister pointed out that the then-PM had pledged to hold the in-out Brexit referendum in the Conservatives' 2015 manifesto in the first place.

"Whether it is taking back control of our borders, our laws, our money - those issues are still prevalent to the debates and the discussion today," she said.

"And the reality is, it's the job of this government, a Conservative government, to deliver on effectively what was a 2015 manifesto commitment... to give the referendum."

BARCLAY: BORIS BELIEVES IN BREXIT

The comments came as Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay disputed Mr Cameron's claim that Mr Johnson had not truly believed in Brexit when he decided to back the campaign in 2016.

According to the ex-Tory leader's memoirs, Mr Johnson believed he would "would become the darling of the party" and had been "certain the Brexit side would lose".

But, asked whether the current Prime Minister really believed Brexit, Mr Barclay told Sky's Sophy Ridge: "He does. He led the [Leave] campaign.

And you’ll recall... at the time, the Remain side was expected to win so the more prudent thing if someone is looking surely at their career would have been to back Remain - as I remember myself because I backed Leave as the only member of the Whip's Office to do so and Remain would have been the easier career choice."

Mr Barclay said of Mr Johnson's decision to push for a Leave outcome: "He did so because he believes in Brexit and he is committed to delivering it."

The Cabinet minister stopped short of attacking Mr Cameron, however, saying he would also be remembered for "repairing the economy".

"Of course it’s nothing compared to what Jeremy Corbyn would do if he was put in charge of the economy now but we inherited an economy in appalling shape, and what David Cameron did was repair that economy and actually pave the way for the very positive spending review that the current Chancellor, Sajid Javid, was able to do," Mr Barclay argued.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan says she would back Remain in a second referendum

2 days 20 hours ago
Nicky Morgan
Nicky Morgan said she would vote to remain in a second vote

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan has admitted she would vote to remain in the European Union if a second referendum took place.

The cabinet minister told the BBC she would repeat her choice from the 2016 poll "if it came to it" - although she stressed that she did not personally back a second referendum being called.

The comments come despite serving under Boris Johnson, who has promised to leave the EU “do or die” on 31 October.

Speaking to Sky News, Ms Morgan said “I don't support having a second referendum, I think the way that we traditionally resolve impasses in this country like this would be to have a general election, although parliament has now twice said in recent days it doesn't want to have a general election.

"I think a second referendum would just create more division and more uncertainty.

"If it came to it... I would vote to remain but I think the most important thing is not having a second referendum, it is implementing the result of the first referendum in 2016."

Asked why she was serving under the arch-Brexiteer Prime Minister, the Loughborough MP said: “Because I’m also a democrat, and I think one of the fundamental tenets of our democracy is that when the public vote, and over 30 million people voted in the EU referendum, there was a clear result…

“It’s not a result I was comfortable with, but I have accepted it.”

The comments came as former Conservative minister Sam Gyimah became the second Tory MP to join the Liberal Democrats.

Meanwhile, former prime minister David Cameron has accused Mr Johnson of backing the Leave side in the 2016 eferendum only to “help his political career”.

Anahita Hossein-Pour

Boris Johnson says Britain will break free of EU 'shackles' like Incredible Hulk as he heads to Brussels

2 days 20 hours ago
Boris Johnson
The Prime Minister will hold talks with Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday.

Boris Johnson has insisted that Britain will break out of its EU "manacles" on 31 October as he compared its plight to the Incredible Hulk ahead of a trip to Brussels.

The Prime Minister told the Mail on Sunday that, like the green-skinned comic book alter-ego of Bruce Banner, the country would "explode out of" its restraints, despite MPs moving to block a no-deal Brexit.

The comments come ahead of face-to-face talks with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday.

Striking a defiant tone after Parliament passed legislation requiring him to delay Brexit if no deal is reached by mid-October, the Prime Minister declared: "The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets."

And he said: "Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them. Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31 and we will get it done."

Ahead of the meeting with Mr Juncker, the Prime Minister said "very, very good" talks had already taken place between the UK and EU leaders, as he talked up the "huge" progress made since he took office. 

Mr Johnson has insisted that Brussels remove what he calls the "undemocratic" backstop arrangement designed to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland and which is included in the EU Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May.

But the EU has said it will not axe the border arrangement unless the UK can present a viable alternative.

The Prime Minister told the Mail on Sunday: "I will be talking to Jean-Claude about how we're going to do it.

"I'm very confident. When I got this job everybody was saying there can be absolutely no change to the Withdrawal Agreement, the backstop was immutable, the arrangements by which the UK was kept locked in to the EU for ever, they said no one could change that.

"They have already moved off that and, as you know, there's a very, very good conversation going on about how to address the issues of the Northern Irish border. A huge amount of progress is being made."

POLL BOOST

Number 10 sources have cautioned against viewing Monday's meeting with Mr Juncker as a "breakthrough moment", and the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Thursday told members of the European Parliament that Britain had yet to present any "concrete proposals in writing that are legally operational" for replacing the backstop. 

But a fresh poll for The Observer suggests the Tories have been boosted by Mr Johnson's EU strategy after weeks of high drama in British politics.

The past month has seen the PM move to shut down Parliament - a decision challenged by Scotland's top civil court - and sack rebel MPs from his own party, while MPs have blocked his bid to hold a general election and legislated against a no-deal Brexit.

However, the latest Opinium study for the paper puts the Tories on 37%, up two points since last week, while Labour is unchanged on 25%. The Liberal Democrats have slipped by one point to 16%, while the Brexit Party is polling at 13%.

Meanwhile disapproval of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit response has risen, from 55% to 60% over the past week. Just 17% approve of Mr Corbyn's handling of Brexit, according to the poll, compared to 37% who approve of the PM's response and 43% who disapprove.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Tory rebel Sam Gyimah defects to the Liberal Democrats as he blasts 'populist' Boris Johnson

2 days 21 hours ago
Sam Gyimah
Sam Gyimah joins the Lib Dems in a swipe at Boris Johnson

Former Conservative minister Sam Gyimah has defected to the Liberal Democrats as he blasted Boris Johnson for “veering towards populism and English nationalism”.

In a blow for the Prime Minister, the People’s Vote-backing MP was revealed as the second Tory switcher to the Lib Dems at the party’s autumn conference in Bournemouth on Saturday.

Mr Gyimah, one of the 21 Tory rebels kicked out of the party for voting against the Government to block no-deal on 31 October, told The Observer that centrists were being “cast out of both main parties.”

The East Surrey MP said: “I listen to ministers undermining the courts. Ministers questioning experts because their views are inconvenient for what the government is saying about no deal.

“You have a government that says law enforcement is the centrepiece of its platform, and yet says in another breath that it will pick and choose what laws it chooses to respect.

“This is in many ways undermining key pillars of our constitution and the functioning of our democracy. The issue for me is not just Brexit. It is beyond Brexit – how you conduct politics and the veering towards populism and English nationalism.”

In a statement, Mr Gyimah - who was seen as a rising star in the Tories and worked as an aide to David Cameron - hit out at the “alarming” direction of the party under Mr Johnson.

He added: “The party has become more intolerant and doctrinaire; less a broad church, more a narrow sect in which lively, open debate has been replaced by oaths of allegiance.

“I am not seeking to get the whip back. It is with great sadness that I’ve come to realise the Conservative party is no longer the party I joined. The removal of the whip was not a matter of discipline, it was a test of faith.”

'STRONGEST REMAIN PARTY'

Mr Gyimah joins ex-Conservative Phillip Lee, and a further four MPs Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith and Sarah Wollaston, in boosting the number of Lib Dems to 18 in the House of Commons.

According to the paper, the Liberal Democrats - who continue their annual conference in Bournemouth this weekend - have updated their target seats for a snap general election and now believe up to 100 constituencies are in contention.

Writing in the Observer, party leader Jo Swinson said: “The Liberal Democrats are the strongest Remain party in the UK, and we continue to grow, adding members, councillors and MPs. When a general election comes, we will be ready for it and ready to take our clear, pro-European message to the country.”

The defection comes as Mr Johnson is due to meet EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier for a crunch meeting in Luxembourg, where he is expected to tell the pair he will not ask for an extension to the 31 October deadline.

Anahita Hossein-Pour

Met Police to take no further action over Leave.EU spending

3 days 19 hours ago
Arron banks in £4,300 gaffe
Leave.EU founder Arron Banks denies any wrongdoing

Brexit campaign group Leave.EU will face no further criminal investigation over its spending during the Brexit referendum due to “insufficient evidence”.

The group were referred to the Metropolitan Police after being fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for election law breaches.

In a May 2018 report, the Electoral Commission claimed that Leave.EU had exceeded the spending limit for "non-party registered campaigners" by at least 10% by failing to include over £77,00 in its spending return.

The report also referred Leave.EU’s chief executive Liz Bilney to the police following its investigation.

Arron Banks, the founder of Leave.EU, has called for an inquiry into the Commission’s actions.

An investigation by the National Crime Agency into the organisation is still ongoing.

A Met statement said: "On 5 August 2019 the MPS submitted a file to the CPS for Early Investigative Advice in relation to the Leave.EU investigation and this advice has now been received.

"It is clear that whilst some technical breaches of electoral law were committed by Leave.EU in respect of the spending return submitted for their campaign, there is insufficient evidence to justify any further criminal investigation.

"Leave.EU's responsible person has been has been told that they will face no further police action."

The force added that investigations into the spending practices of Vote Leave and BeLeave were ongoing.

Alex Murray, the Met Police Commander for Specialist Crime, said: "Following detailed enquiries it became apparent that the nature of potential breaches of the regulations, the criminal standard of proof required in court and the actions taken by Leave.EU to adhere to the regulations, mean that it is now appropriate to take no further action."

The Electoral Commission has also defended its investigation into Mr Banks and Ms Bilney surrounding Leave.EU’s spending.

A spokesperson said: "We believed there were reasonable grounds to suspect that Ms Bilney had committed the offence of knowingly or recklessly making a false declaration about the Leave.EU spending return.

"This warranted thorough investigation and we therefore notified the police."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47