Forget no-deal Brexit, leadership rivals told

Likelihood of Parliamentary stand-off could increase general election chances

Two of the front-runners in the battle to replace United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May have been told they will not be allowed to preside over the nation crashing out of the European Union without a divorce deal.

The Guardian newspaper says former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and one-time Brexit secretary Dominic Raab have both been told by grandees of the Conservative Party that its rank-and-file members of Parliament would rather bring down the government than see the nation leave the EU in a so-called no-deal Brexit.

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Johnson and Raab are hardline Brexiteers who have said they would rather leave the bloc without a deal than the one May negotiated. They were among Conservative Party MPs who worked in recent months to undermine May and oust her as leader and they are now both eager to lead the party and the nation.

With Nigel Farage’s anti-EU Brexit Party performing very well in last week’s European elections and stealing support from the Conservatives, there are now fears the party will lurch to the right.

Both Johnson and Raab are already on the right and favor taking the UK out of the EU at the end of October, the current scheduled exit date. Neither favors extending that date in order to carry out fresh negotiations with the other 27 EU member States.

Raab even said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that he would ignore the will of Parliament, if necessary, to leave with a hard Brexit.

“It’s very difficult for Parliament now to legislate against a no-deal, or in favor of a further extension, unless a resolute prime minister is willing to acquiesce in that – and I would not,” he said.

But Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said Conservative Party MPs would not allow that to happen.

“Any prime minister would find it very difficult to govern if he or she were to pursue a no-deal Brexit without Parliament’s permission,” he said.

“Parliament has voted very clearly to oppose a no-deal Brexit. A prime minister who ignores Parliament cannot survive very long.”

So far, eight MPs have thrown their hats in the ring seeking May’s job, which she will officially vacate on June 7 and which she will then hold in a caretaker role until a new leader is selected. Most would-be replacements are hardline Brexiteers who are willing to have Britain leave the EU without a divorce deal.

MPs will whittle the list of candidates down to two and party members nationwide will chose their next leader.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is taking a more moderate line than Johnson and Raab and has said he is willing to compromise in order to keep the Conservative Party together. He would also be willing to extend the exit date beyond the end of October.

Andrea Leadsom, the former leader of the Commons, is hardline in her Brexit stance, like Johnson and Raab, but is not seen as a front-runner. She too wants to leave at the end of October, with or without a deal.

Esther McVey has the hardest Brexit line of all. She wants to leave the bloc without a divorce deal and wants to keep her distance from the EU once Britain has extricated itself from the bloc.

Among those seeking May’s job, only Rory Stewart, the international development secretary, and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, have ruled out a no-deal Brexit.

Stewart has said a no-deal Brexit would be “undeliverable, unnecessary and is going to damage our country”.

So far, none of the Conservative Party’s pro-EU MPs has joined the leadership race.

Many pundits are saying a general election is becoming increasingly likely.

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