LONDON: UK’s vibrant Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a new challenge to his almost a month old government as opposition parties said on Tuesday they had agreed to work together to try and prevent a no-deal Brexit, including through passing legislation or holding a vote of no-confidence in the government.
Parliament returns from its summer break next week and is preparing for a battle with new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has vowed to take Britain out of the European Union at the end of October, with or without an exit agreement.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hosted talks with the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the Independent Group for Change on Tuesday to discuss tactics to prevent a no-deal exit.
“The attendees agreed on the urgency to act together to find practical ways to prevent No Deal, including the possibility of passing legislation and a vote of no-confidence,” the parties said in a joint statement after the meeting.
The news of the meeting saw the British pound rise on Tuesday with some traders encouraged enough to buy sterling even though most still fear the country is headed for a disorderly exit from the European Union.
The pound was already rising but extended its gains after the news. Sterling rose as much as 0.6% on the day to $1.2288 and 0.5% against the euro to 90.435 pence.
Investors are growing increasingly concerned that Britain is headed towards a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 that could disrupt trade flows and weaken the economy, though some also believe the currency has moved too far downwards.
“We are slightly positive on sterling in our portfolios as we think that a hard Brexit is already priced into the markets,” said Ugo Lancioni, managing director of global fixed income and currency management at Neuberger Berman.
Responding, Paul Scully MP, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party are actively seeking to undermine negotiations to stop Brexit happening altogether. Boris Johnson is now making progress because it is clear we will be leaving the EU on October 31st – no ifs, no buts.
“The alternative to delivering Brexit is Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street; a man who would wreck the economy, take a sledgehammer to our Union and can’t provide the leadership Britain needs. All Corbyn offers is more delay and uncertainty.”
Responding to Keir Starmer’s admission that Labour would campaign to Remain in the EU in “any outcome”, Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly said: “It’s becoming increasingly clear Labour want to ignore the referendum, stay in the EU and will use any excuse to do so.
“Labour’s repeated promises to respect the referendum result lie in tatters and it’s clear Corbyn cannot be trusted to deliver on the will of the British people. Only Boris Johnson and the Conservatives will deliver Brexit by 31 October, whatever the circumstances, and deliver the change British people voted to see.”
Meanwhile, PM Boris Johnson has told European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker that Britain will leave without a deal unless the backstop is “abolished”.
During a phone call on Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister told Juncker that nothing short of reopening negotiations and removing the Irish backstop would be good enough for his government to consider signing an exit agreement.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister set out that the UK will be leaving the EU on October 31, whatever the circumstances, and that we absolutely want to do so with a deal. “The PM was also clear however that unless the Withdrawal Agreement is reopened and the backstop abolished there is no prospect of that deal.”
A spokesman for the commission said Juncker used the exchange to repeat his willingness to “work constructively” to look at “concrete proposals he may have, as long as they are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement”.
Juncker said the EU was fully prepared for a no-deal scenario but added that the bloc would do everything it can to avoid such a situation. “A no-deal scenario will only ever be the UK’s decision, not the EU’s,” he told Johnson.