Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned that a no-deal Brexit could leave the new prime minister at the mercy of French president Emmanuel Macron, who could use access to the port of Calais as a way to exert pressure on the UK.
The warning came as a senior member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet said Labour is “likely” to go into the next general election as a Remain party offering a second referendum on EU membership.
And cabinet minister Amber Rudd – who recently accepted that the threat of no-deal should be “part of the armoury” in the new PM’s negotiations with Brussels – said that she was ready to resist any move to suspend parliament to force through Brexit.
Former PM Sir John Major has threatened legal action if Theresa May’s probable successor Boris Johnson attempts to use a mechanism called prorogation to lock MPs out of the Commons to stop them blocking a no-deal Brexit. Campaigner Gina Miller today announced her own legal fight against the move, and Mr Hammond has even floated the idea of an MPs’ “sit-in” in the Commons chamber if Mr Johnson tries to close the doors.
Ms Rudd told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think that proroguing Parliament would be a mistake. MPs across both parties at every level think it is the wrong thing to do and I would urge any prime minister to put that aside.
“I would use my own tactics to try to stop that happening and I encourage anyone else to consider their own version as well.”
Mr Hammond told a BBC Panorama Brexit special that there would be a limit to the amount of influence the Government could exert in the event of no-deal, despite having spent more than £4 billion on preparations.
“Many of the levers are held by others – the EU27 or private business,” he said. “We can seek to persuade them but we can’t control it.
“For example, we can make sure that goods flow inwards through the port of Dover without any friction but we can’t control the outward flow into the port of Calais.
”The French can dial that up or dial it down, just the same as the Spanish for years have dialled up or dialled down the length of the queues at the border going into Gibraltar.“
Mr Hammond – who said earlier this month that a disorderly Brexit could cost the Exchequer up to £90 billion – has long warned against the dangers of leaving without a deal with Brussels.
The Chancellor, who has indicated he does not expect to remain in post once there is a new prime minister in No 10, is reported to be at the head of a group of around 30 Tory MPs determined to prevent no-deal.
Ms Thornberry took advantage of Labour’s new pro-referendum policy to join a People’s Vote rally on Sunday in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and Ruislip South constituency.
“We can’t just hand our country over to Boris Johnson and let him do whatever he wants with it,” she said. “We have got some sort of gentlemanly coup going on at the moment, with people in the Home Counties deciding who the next prime minister should be.”
Appearing on the Marr Show shortly before the demonstration, she was asked whether the new policy unveiled by Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday meant Labour was now “a Remain party”, and replied: “Sounds pretty Remain to me.”
The shadow foreign secretary stressed that Labour had not signed up to a trade union position that the next manifesto should include a pledge to negotiate a softer “jobs-first” Brexit, subject to a referendum, if Mr Corbyn wins power.
Although she accepted she did not know what the manifesto position would be, she said she could “see the logic” of it offering a referendum in which Labour would campaign for Remain.
“I’m not allowed to write the manifesto,” she said. “I can tell you what I would argue for and what I think is likely to be in the manifesto, but I can’t tell you what will be in the manifesto because it hasn’t been written yet.”
Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Sir Ed Davey, whose party put on more than 2 million votes in May’s European elections as Remain-backing voters switched from Labour, said that if Mr Corbyn won power he would implement his own Brexit plan.
“They aren’t a Remain party, they are a Brexit party still,” Davey told Marr.
Ms Rudd, who is backing Jeremy Hunt for the Tory leadership, said she was still concerned about the economic impact of no-deal, but added: ”I am no longer saying that I will lie down in front of the bulldozers if it arrives.“
Meanwhile, Scotland’s constitutional relations secretary Mike Russell warned that the supply of all medicines cannot be guaranteed in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Russell told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme: ”A no deal would result in substantial increases in unemployment very quickly, it would result in businesses closing down, it would result in problems with the food chain, it would result in problems with the supply of essential medicines, all those things are really, really difficult and the further you are down the supply routes, and Scotland of course is at the end of many supply routes, the worse it would be.“
– Britain’s Brexit Crisis is due to be screened on Thursday on BBC One.