Boris Johnson was today warned that his tough line on Brexit is paving the way for a government of national unity. Veteran Tory MP Sir Nicholas
Boris Johnson was today warned that his tough line on Brexit is paving the way for a government of national unity.
Veteran Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames – grandson of Winston Churchill – said many of his colleagues would refuse to stand on a manifesto backing No Deal.
He said a cross-party administration without Mr Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn could be the only way to ‘sort out’ the mounting crisis.
The stark warning came after sacked Tory Remainer rebels made clear they will take the fight to the new PM – but will wait until after the summer recess.
The new premier wielded the axe last night as he fired 17 members of Theresa May‘s old Cabinet in a brutal cull, swelling the ranks of his enemies on the backbenches.
Many of those who were given the boot backed Remain and are strongly opposed to a No Deal Brexit – an option Mr Johnson has kept firmly on the table.
Interviewed on Sky News today, Sir Nicholas said he was worried by Mr Johnson’s repeated insistence that the UK must leave the EU by the end of October with or without a deal.
Veteran Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames – grandson of Winston Churchill – told Sky News many of his colleagues would refuse to stand on a manifesto backing No Deal
Philip Hammond, pictured yesterday after he resigned as chancellor, is expected to lead the charge against a No Deal Brexit
‘There will be people who will not be able to stand on a Conservative manifesto of that type,’ he said.
‘We are moving in the medium term towards a national government. I think the moment is fast approaching towards a national government to sort this out.
Asked if the unity government would be formed without Mr Johnson or Mr Corbyn, he said: ‘Maybe.’
‘If there was a general election and there was an inconclusive result it may be that you could move for a national government.’
Earlier this week, Sir Nicholas told the BBC’s Newsnight Mr Johnson was a ‘chancer’ and raised fears he would ‘b*****r up’ being PM.
‘He has got great qualities of that there is no doubt. They’re just not the qualities that I want to see, personally, as prime minister of this country,’ the MP said.
‘These are not times when we need someone who is a bit of a chancer, you know Boris is a chancer. He is a chancer.’
He continued: ‘I texted him last weekend, and I said to him when Churchill became prime minister, on the day he became prime minister, he went back to his flat, where he met my grandmother and his children, and they drank a bottle of champagne.
‘And he proposed a toast, which I quoted to Boris, of ‘here’s to not buggering it up.’
‘And I said to Boris I can’t possibly vote for you, I can’t vote for you, but I pray for all our sakes you don’t bugger it up. And that is my hope for Boris.
He added: ‘My fear is that he could bugger it up.’
They are now preparing to do everything they can to stop Mr Johnson taking Britain out of the bloc without an agreement.
However, they are expected to keep their powder dry over the summer to see whether the new PM can renegotiate a deal with the EU.
But if he fails and changes tack to pursue a disorderly split in the run up to October 31 they will then launch an all-out assault to stop him.
Many disaffected Tories are even considering voting to bring down Mr Johnson’s administration if they are left with no other options.
Mr Johnson’s critics believe that sacking so many people from government could prove to be a mistake and that he has only stored up problems for later down the line.
One former minister said: ‘He’s got a majority of two and he’s just sacked 17 of us.
‘I’m going to take the summer off and see what he does, but if I have to do my democratic duty to stop him doing something suicidal then I will not hesitate.’
David Mundell, the sacked Scottish secretary, has refused to be drawn on whether he could vote against a No Deal divorce but he has long cautioned against leaving the EU without an agreement in place
David Gauke resigned as justice secretary yesterday to avoid being fired directly by Boris Johnson. He has given his name to the ‘Gaukeward Squad’ of Tory Remainers who will fight against a chaotic split from Brussels
The House of Commons will rise today for the summer recess with MPs due to return to work on September 3.
Philip Hammond, who resigned as chancellor yesterday afternoon to deny Mr Johnson the chance to fire him directly, is expected to lead the charge against a No Deal break.
David Gauke, who also resigned preemptively as justice secretary, is expected to be a key player in the Commons in the run up to the Halloween Brexit deadline.
Such is his level of involvement that the group of an estimated 30 Tory Remainers against No Deal has been nicknamed the ‘Gaukeward Squad’.
David Mundell, the former Scottish secretary who was sacked by Mr Johnson yesterday evening, has not ruled out joining Mr Hammond and Mr Gauke’s grouping.
He told The Times: ‘My job now is to hold him to account on the commitments he has given to the Union.
‘He has said the right things and now he has got to do it.’
He added that he ‘won’t necessarily be joining Phil Guevara’s movement’.
Mr Mundell refused to say whether he would vote against a No Deal Brexit but he has long expressed his concerns about what a chaotic split from Brussels could do to the Union.
Speaking this morning, he told BBC Scotland: ‘I am very clear I don’t think No Deal is a good outcome but on the other hand I am very, very clear we have to leave the EU.
‘We have to deliver on the electoral mandate from the referendum, if not I think we face a severe dislocation to our political system.’
He described a No Deal Brexit as ‘a difficult outcome’, but stated: ‘We have to get to each scenario as it comes along.
‘One of the things that has happened in dealing with Brexit is people have made statements and declarations way ahead of the issues emerging. At this moment the focus is on trying to get a deal.’
Mr Mundell continued: ‘I don’t want to see a no-deal Brexit, I am very clear on that, but we have to understand the scenario in which that is put forward, where will we be in two or three months’ time.
Mr Johnson, pictured today with his new Cabinet, has vowed to leave the EU ‘do or die’ and with or without a deal by October 31
‘I think we have been too guilty of setting out firm and fixed positions ahead of events unfolding and emerging.’
Mr Mundell, the longest-serving Scottish Tory MP, was replaced as Scottish secretary by Alister Jack who was elected MP for Dumfries and Galloway in 2017.
Mr Johnson has promised to deliver Brexit ‘do or die’ and with or without a deal by October 31.
His first priority is to negotiate a new deal with the EU which does not include the Irish border backstop.
But Brussels is adamant the current divorce deal cannot be changed and the backstop is non-negotiable.
If the EU refuses to budge then Mr Johnson will likely have to pivot to purusing a No Deal split – an outcome opposed by a majority of MPs.
Should the Commons block No Deal Mr Johnson may then have no choice but to call an early general election to try to break the deadlock.