Fox claims MPs seeking to extend Article 50 are ‘trying to thwart Brexit altogether’ | Politics News
A top cabinet minister has told MPs seeking to delay Britain’s departure from the European Union that they should focus their efforts on helping the government get a deal through Parliament, rather than “trying to thwart Brexit altogether”.
In an interview with Sky News, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox made clear his disdain for those who have tabled amendments in the Commons seeking to extend Article 50, the legal mechanism which triggered the process of Britain’s withdrawal.
His comments, repeated in a round of interviews at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, have sparked an angry reaction from MPs supportive of the move.
The prospect of an extension has been raised by opponents of a “no-deal” Brexit as a way of avoiding this scenario, which they fear will cause widespread disruption as Britain quickly moves from one set of rules and regulations to another.
But Dr Fox said if the amendments were passed it would “change the constitution without us having a proper debate”.
“At the moment the executive, the government, makes the legislation, brings it to Parliament, Parliament scrutinises it and determines whether it should be passed or not. This would make Parliament both the initiator and the judge on the law as it’s created,” he told Sky News at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“It’s far better we put our efforts into trying to get an agreement then, let’s face it, some people trying to thwart Brexit altogether,” Dr Fox added.
An amendment from Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Conservative MP Nick Boles wants to give MPs a vote to prevent a “no-deal” scenario.
It would give Mrs May until 26 February to get a deal approved. If not, then MPs would be given a vote on whether to extend Article 50 by nine months.
When pressed if he thought it would be a “constitutional crisis” if this amendment went through, Dr Fox replied: “I think it changes our fundamental basis of our constitutional settlement in Parliament.
“Once one of your arrangements in Parliament, one of those traditions that you have is unravelled, whose to say where that stops?”
Tory MP Anna Soubry tweeted: “It is not true @LiamFox that colleagues backing @YvetteCooperMP amendment seek to stop #Brexit @NickBoles @NickyMorgan01 #OliverLetwin & others voted FOR the PM’s (ie your) Withdrawal Agreement @BBCr4today”.
Mr Boles replied to the tweet, saying: Thank you for pointing that out, Anna. @LiamFox has never been very good at detail.”
On the prospect of a “no-deal” divorce, Dr Fox said: “People talk about taking ‘no-deal’ off the table, that’s not possible. Because the law says that unless we get a deal that’s what will happen.
“So we need to work towards that.”
The Cooper-Boles amendment is one of a series tabled by MPs to Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal, which was rejected in the Commons last week.
They will be voted on next Tuesday and will likely ratchet up the pressure on Mrs May to change course.
Speaking to the BBC, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour is “highly likely” to support the Cooper-Boles amendment.
Former chancellor George Osborne, meanwhile, also told the BBC he thinks a “delay looks like the most likely option”.