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Gordon Brown: MPs could stop no-deal Brexit ‘dead in its tracks’

The former Prime Minister said MPs could take over the order paper in the House of Commons to avoid a no-deal exit.

Gordon Brown (Jane Barlow/PA)
Gordon Brown (Jane Barlow/PA)

By Lewis McKenzie, PA Scotland Political Reporter

Brexit could be avoided without the need to win a confidence vote in the House of Commons, according to Gordon Brown.

The Labour former prime minister said MPs could seize control of the order paper in the House of Commons to pass legislation to ensure a no-deal exit from the European Union is averted.

Mr Brown, speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday, also suggested the Government has been receiving advice privately on the impact of a no-deal scenario.

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Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was speaking at the 2019 Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

“If the Government cannot deliver its no deal, then it is set back and has to think again,” said Mr Brown.

“I believe the MPs are meeting to discuss what they should do and the obvious thing to do is for them to agree to take over the business of the House of Commons for a day, pass a law that says that the Government cannot go ahead with a no-deal Brexit until a report has been prepared on the consequences of a no deal.

“You could get a majority in the House of Commons for that and I believe that would stop it dead in its tracks. Then we’d be able to talk seriously about what is the best relationship between Britain and Europe, because none of the long-term relationships have been sorted out by Mrs May’s deal, by anybody else’s proposal so far. But the starting point is stopping no deal.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has proposed stepping in as a caretaker prime minister in the event of winning a vote of no confidence against the Government, with a view to them calling for a general election.

However, Mr Brown suggested that it would not be essential to have a general election to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

“I would like to see this Government defeated,” said Mr Brown. “But you can stop Brexit without necessarily winning a confidence vote in the House of Commons and forcing a general election.

“And the reason I’m saying you can do this is that under the standing orders of the House of Commons, you can take over the business, MPs can vote by a majority to take over the business from the Government for a day.

“You can then put a Bill into that debate in that day that says, ‘Until you’ve satisfied ourselves that a no-deal Brexit does not have adverse economic consequences or social consequences for the people of this country, you cannot go ahead with a no-deal Brexit.

“You could pass that law immediately and that law would be binding on the Government. So it is possible to do this.

“The problem is that the Conservative MPs who are against Brexit, the Liberal MPs, the SNP MPs, the Labour MPs, have found it very difficult to find something around which they can unite.”

The idea of severing every connection and cutting yourself off from your nearest neighbour does not, in my view, make sense Gordon Brown

Mr Brown also made the case in favour of the United Kingdom, with a recent poll suggesting a majority of voters in Scotland would now back independence.

“I’m not unaware that there’s always going to be tensions between a larger country and a smaller country,” he said regarding the relationship between Scotland and England.

“But I think you’ve got to think for the future. If we believe it is better to co-operate within Europe, we also believe it’s better to co-operate within the United Kingdom.

“And I think that the SNP misunderstand the Scottish people in that they assume we’re all for breaking every connection with the rest of Britain.

“You can redesign the constitution in Britain, you can have a more federal type relationship, there’s all sorts of things you can do.

“But the idea of severing every connection and cutting yourself off from your nearest neighbour does not, in my view, make sense.”

SNP MSP George Adam said: “Gordon Brown’s monthly interventions are becoming increasingly detached from reality – now, bizarrely, claiming that independence would mean the end of all social relations with people in England.

“The reality is that Gordon Brown would prefer the imposition of a disastrous Tory Brexit on Scotland over independence – which makes him every bit as extreme as the politics he purports to oppose.

“For him, it is the union at all and any cost, which puts him increasingly on the wrong side of Scottish opinion.

“Scotland now faces a clear choice over its future – as an outward-looking, independent country or shackled to an insular Westminster, with right-wing Brexiteers like Boris Johnson running the show.

“Labour in Scotland is an increasingly irrelevant force and people simply do not believe they can stand up to the Tories.”

PA

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