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Tory Party fractures as Boris Johnson digs in over Brexit delay

The Prime Minister says a Brexit extension is ‘pointless’ as a Cabinet minister quit, claiming the Government is actively pursuing no-deal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Danny Lawson/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Danny Lawson/PA)

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

Boris Johnson says he will “refuse to accept” any “pointless delay” on Brexit, in the clearest move yet that Downing Street is looking for ways to disobey a law blocking no-deal.

Opposition MPs and peers rushed a new law through Parliament effectively blocking a no-deal Brexit, forcing the Prime Minister to ask the European Union for a three-month deadline extension if no agreement is in place by October 19.

But, in comments made to two Sunday newspapers, Mr Johnson accused MPs of “trying to wreck” the negotiations and reiterated his commitment to taking Britain out of the EU by Halloween.

The Sunday Times reported that Boris Johnson wants a Supreme Court battle over whether he can defy the rebel law demanding a Brexit extension.

It comes as Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd sensationally quit the Cabinet and the Tory Party over Mr Johnson’s decision to sack 21 Tory rebels last week, and the lack of activity in securing an exit deal.

In her resignation letter she said: “I no longer believe leaving with a deal is the Government’s main objective.”

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage has told The Sunday Times he stands ready to offer a “non-aggression pact” to the PM that he predicted could win a 100-seat majority for the Tories and Brexit Party.

Mr Johnson, in comments made to the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Express, said he would not ask the EU for an extension to Article 50.

“Let’s be clear what is going on in Parliament – there is a group of MPs, led by [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn, who simply want to block Brexit,” he said.

“They want to stop this country from leaving on October 31, so they are trying to wreck the Government’s negotiations. They would force this country to accept ever more dither and delay.

“I refuse to accept Corbyn’s pointless delay.”

The PM said he would give Labour “one last chance” to agree to an autumn general election on Monday but, if that was declined, the Government would “simply carry on” he vowed.

He is set to ask MPs to agree to a snap election when they return to the Commons after a similar move failed to secure the two-thirds majority required on Wednesday.

“We will surmount all the obstacles in our path,” continued Mr Johnson. “We will work tirelessly for a deal, even though Corbyn would like to make that task far harder.

“But whatever happens we will get ready to come out on October 31 and we will serve this country and its people with the energy and commitment they deserve.”

The Opposition had a warning of their own for the PM, however, having received fresh legal advice indicating that Mr Johnson could be forced from power if he fails to comply with the anti no-deal law’s demands.

The law is expected to receive Royal Assent next week.

I refuse to accept Corbyn’s pointless delay Prime Minister Boris Johnson

In advice from “leading QCs” to shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer and seen by The Observer newspaper, the top barristers said: “If the Prime Minister refused to comply with this order then, while we would be in historically uncharted political territory, the legal position would remain clear – the Prime Minister would be in contempt of an order of the court and would be exposed to a full range of sanctions.”

One of the QCs consulted, Philippe Sands, said the former London mayor could even go to jail if he fails to respect the will of Parliament, but concluded it was more likely he would be ousted from Downing Street.

“He will comply or leave office,” said Mr Sands.

It came as there were angry scenes in Westminster as pro-Brexit demonstrators faced police in Parliament Square.

Anna Soubry MP, leader of Change UK, said she abandoned plans to address anti-prorogation protesters after people reportedly started shouting “Soubry is a Nazi”.

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