Gove refuses to rule out ignoring law passed to stop no deal
Labour says Boris Johnson's Government is becoming ‘an elective dictatorship’
Michael Gove has refused to rule out that the government could ignore any law passed by Parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether the government would respect legislation which rebel MPs could pass this week mandating an extension to Article 50, Gove said: “Let’s see what the legislation says.”
Pressed on the matter, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster continued: “You’re asking me about a pig in a poke. And I will wait to see what legislation the opposition may try to bring forward.
“We will see what the legislation says when it is brought forward. For me the point is that we already have legislation in place which an overwhelming majority of MPs voted for [Article 50].”
The Independent described this as an “astonishing admission” and Sky News said Gove’s words sparked “a furious backlash”. They come ahead of what could be a pivotal week in the Brexit saga, as MPs prepare to challenge the government over the imminent prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
An alliance of Remainers is poised to attempt to seize control of the order paper tomorrow, to force through a backbench bill to delay Brexit before parliament is suspended the following week.
Labour's John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said that Boris Johnson’s administration was becoming “an elective dictatorship”. Writing on Twitter, he added: “The Tory attack on our democracy is getting worse. Gove has just refused to confirm that the government will accept legislation passed by Parliament.”
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said Gove’s statement was “breathtaking,” adding: “For ministers not to confirm that this Government will accept and comply with legislation lawfully passed is breathtaking”. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was a “dangerous time for democracy,” adding that: “We mustn’t allow this behaviour to be normalised.”
There was also opposition from Tories. Guto Bebb MP said: “This government’s unprecedented willingness to flout the rules is a disgrace to our democracy.”
Bebb, a supporter of a second referendum, added: “Not only are they suspending parliament to try and force through a disastrous no deal, but now they are suggesting that, even if Parliament passed a law requiring the Government to avoid no deal, they might simply ignore it. Our very democracy is now under threat from Boris Johnson and his government.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Gove denied a no-deal Brexit could result in food shortages as he claimed everyone would “get the food they need” but he did admit that some prices might rise.
He was also confronted with his past statements, which were against shutting down Parliament. In what The Mirror describes as a “squirming” exchange, he was reminded that he previously said: “Suspending, or as the constitutional experts call it, proroguing Parliament, in order to try to get no deal through I think would be wrong.”
Gove insisted that his previous statement had referred specifically to proroguing Parliament in October.