Johnson Calls Major’s Legal Threat ‘Very Odd’: Brexit Update

Alex Morales, Kitty Donaldson and Joe Mayes
Johnson Calls Major’s Legal Threat ‘Very Odd’: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Former Prime Minister John Major threatened to seek a judicial review if the next premier suspends Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit -- something Boris Johnson, the front-runner to succeed Theresa May, has refused to rule out. He described Major’s threat as “very odd.”

Key Developments:

Johnson’s rival for the top job, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, rejected the idea of suspending ParliamentTheresa May’s de-facto deputy David Lidington warned a no-deal Brexit would trigger an “immediate shock” the economyLabour said it won’t fix its Brexit policy until a general election is calledThe European Union’s next leader, Ursula von der Leyen, said she hopes the U.K. changes its mind and stays in the blocPound rises

Lidington: New PM Might Get EU Concessions (4:30 p.m.)

European leaders have made clear they’ll give Britain’s new prime minister a hearing over Brexit, and may be prepared to make concessions, according to David Lidington, Prime Minister Theresa May’s de-facto deputy. They would first want to know a revised deal could pass the House of Commons, he said.

Lidington told Parliament’s Brexit Select Committee “it is conceivable that the EU would be prepared to discuss some kind of further protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement,’’ and that the bloc is “open to discussing potential changes to the political declaration” -- the non-binding second part of the Brexit package negotiated by May.

Lidington also said there’s no guarantee the EU would give Britain a further Brexit extension because a single government could refuse. “That brings the whole process to a crashing halt,” he said.

No-Deal Brexit Would Cause Shock: May’s Deputy (3:20 p.m.)

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington -- Prime Minister Theresa May’s de-facto deputy -- said a no-deal Brexit would cause an economic shock, with consequences particularly felt in Northern Ireland.

“In the event of a no-deal there would be an immediate shock to the economy, as the chancellor has set down,’’ Lidington told the House of Commons Brexit Committee. “A lot then depends both on what mitigating measures are put in place, but also on the direction of future policy.”

Lidington said he visited Northern Ireland on Friday and “the businesses that I met there used the word catastrophic to describe no deal.” While consequences “would be particularly felt” there, the same problems would also arise at other ports, he said.

It would be a “constitutional outrage” for May’s successor to suspend Parliament in order to drive through a no-deal Brexit, he told the committee.

Johnson Says Major’s Legal threat ‘Very Odd’ (2:20 p.m.)

Boris Johnson said former Prime Minister John Major’s threat (see 9 a.m.) to take legal action if he were to suspend Parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit was “very odd.”

“I think everybody is fed up with delay and I think the idea of now consecrating this decision to the judiciary is really very, very odd indeed,” Johnson, the favorite to succeed Theresa May as premier, told reporters. “What we want is for Parliament to take their responsibilities, get it done as they promised that they would.”

Johnson has refused to rule out suspending Parliament in order to secure Brexit on Oct. 31. His rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, has ruled out taking such action. Major said earlier he would seek a judicial review if Parliament was prorogued or suspended over Brexit.

Labour to Fix Brexit Policy Once Election Called (1:50 p.m.)

A spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party said it will come to a decision on a Brexit policy for its manifesto only once an election is called, telling reporters there is a “democratic process” by which to reach a decision.

“We have made clear our approach to Brexit depends on the circumstances, depends on what’s on the table,” the spokesman said, adding that the party wants an early general election. The next is not due until 2022.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn bowed to pressure on Tuesday, saying the party will campaign to remain in the EU against a no-deal or Conservative Brexit and challenged the next prime minister to put it to another vote. But he didn’t say what Labour would do if it won a snap election before Brexit had happened.

EU’s Next Chief Hopes U.K. Doesn’t Leave (12:50 p.m.)

Ursula von der Leyen, nominee for next European Commission president, told European Union lawmakers she hopes the U.K. changes its mind and stays in the bloc, but that if it does leave, it should be on the best possible terms.

“We want you to remain,” she said, addressing a British member of the European Parliament in Brussels. But whatever happens, “it is in our interests to have you sort things out,” she said -- a clear indication that she will try to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Von der Leyen was chosen to lead the EU’s executive by national leaders but she still needs the support of parliament. She will start in post the day after Britain leaves the bloc -- if it sticks to its latest deadline of Oct. 31.

Johnson ‘Not Attracted’ to Suspending Parliament (12:40 p.m.)

In a letter to the One Nation caucus of centrist Conservatives published on Wednesday, leadership front-runner Boris Johnson repeated his line that he is “not attracted to arcane procedures such as the prorogation of Parliament,” and would rather find consensus on Brexit across the House of Commons.

Johnson also wrote that he believes a no-deal Brexit is “extremely unlikely to happen.” The One Nation group had asked Johnson to clarify his policy positions following a meeting with its members several weeks ago.

The publication of the letter comes after former Prime Minister John Major criticized Johnson’s failure to rule out prorogation (see 9 a.m.). Parliament also made clear on Tuesday it would fight against a no-deal Brexit if the government pursued it.

Johnson Supporters Hit Back at Major (11:25 a.m.)

Supporters of Boris Johnson have ridiculed former Prime Minister John Major’s threat (see 9 a.m.) to seek a judicial review if the next premier tries to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit.

“It’s a stunt,” Conservative MP Chris Philp told BBC Radio. “I don’t think it’s a serious proposition.” Philp said suspending Parliament “is not the plan A or even plan B or plan C. The main plan is to get a deal agreed with the European Union, and that’s what Boris, and I think the vast majority of Conservatives, and I suspect the vast majority of the public want.”

Prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker said in a text message that Major’s political career was “intertwined in our country’s journey to this debacle,” citing issues including the failure to seek a public mandate to sign the Maastricht Treaty, which formally created the European Union and deepened political integration among member states.

“My generation owe Sir John a debt of gratitude on other issues, but on Europe, his premiership has proven a disaster,” Baker said.

Major Threatens Legal Action Over Parlt Suspension (9 a.m.)

Former Prime Minister John Major said he would be ready to take the government to court if the new premier tried to suspend Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit. He called on the front-runner for the position, Boris Johnson, to rule out doing so.

“There would be a queue of people who would seek judicial review,” Major said on BBC Radio. “I have huge admiration for our parliamentary traditions and I’m not going to stand by and see them disregarded in this fashion. It is utterly, utterly and completely the wrong way to proceed.”

Major is backing Jeremy Hunt to be the new prime minister, who has said he won’t suspend Parliament to get the U.K. out of the European Union by Oct. 31. But Major warned both candidates that sticking to that deadline could be “disastrous” if companies and the country wasn’t ready.

“National leaders look first at the interests of the country, not first at the interests of themselves and appealing to a particular part of a small electorate for a particular post, however politically important that post may be,” he said.

Earlier:

U.K. Parliament Flexes Muscle as Johnson Doubles Down on No-DealU.K. Seeks Brexit Concessions Saying Dublin Has Most to LoseBrexit Bulletin: Parliament Strikes Again

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net;Joe Mayes in London at jmayes9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Emma Ross-Thomas at erossthomas@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas Penny

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