China / World

Corbyn makes cross-party plea to avoid no-deal Brexit

By Julian Shea in London (China Daily Global) Updated: 2019-08-18 10:47

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on leaders of other opposition parties to help install him as a temporary prime minister to prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson forcing through a no-deal Brexit at the end of October.

In a letter, Corbyn said he would seek an extension of Article 50, the legislative process that triggered the country's twice-delayed departure from the 28-member European Union. He would then call a general election to give the people a vote on the final outcome of the saga that has dominated British politics since the June 2016 referendum.

"It's hard to say how long that (extension) would be, but obviously long enough to have a general election and for the new parliament to have be able to legislate for the future. ... There has to be a popular decision on this," he wrote.

However, Corbyn's call has received a lukewarm response. Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson called it "nonsense", and said that, considering Labour's own divisions over Brexit, Corbyn was "not the person who is going to be able to build an even temporary majority in the House of Commons. ... I would expect there are people in his own party and indeed the necessary Conservative backbenchers who would be unwilling to support him."

Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party's Westminster group, was more positive, saying he would happily talk to Corbyn, but stressed "Labour needs to get off the fence on Brexit".

'Betrayal of referendum'

Meanwhile, one of Johnson's own Conservative colleagues, former chancellor Philip Hammond, told the BBC a no-deal exit would be a "betrayal of the referendum" and hinted that a general election or second referendum could be the only way to resolve Brexit.

"To set the bar for negotiations so high that we inevitably leave without a deal would be a betrayal. The prime minister said he would get a deal and we want to see him deliver that deal," he said. "I'm very confident that the means exist for parliament to make its voice heard and to pass legislation that gives effect to the clear view of parliament.

"If we can't resolve this issue in parliament, it will have to be resolved by some form of democratic process, and there are frankly two choices: a general election or a referendum," he said.

Further pressure has been put on Johnson from the United States, where the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has said Brexit "cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement (a peace pact relating to Northern Ireland)."

The Trump administration has spoken enthusiastically about a free trade deal with the UK post-Brexit, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying the US would be "on the doorstep, pen in hand" to sign one. If the UK were to leave the EU with no alternative arrangements in place, it would need such a lifeline.

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