Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar have met for private talks on The Wirral and have agreed there is a “pathway” to a possible Brexit agreement.
It comes as Andrea Leadsom suggested the PM could send a second letter to the EU explaining he does not want any Brexit delay, alongside the letter asking for an Article 50 extension required by the Benn Act.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, meanwhile, has warned that people could die as a result of a no-deal Brexit.
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Moderate Tories have threatened Boris Johnson with a mass walk-out if No 10 tries to make the party back a no-deal Brexit explicitly at a snap general election.
The suggestion, made by a No 10 aide – widely believed to be Dominic Cummings. One MP told The Independent the idea was “mad”.
After meeting Johnson in Downing Street, Damian Green, the chairman of the One Nation group, said the PM had been told that such a stance would be unacceptable. Green said “several dozen” MPs could quit over the issue.
Former chancellor Philip Hammond has ruled out voting for a general election in the coming weeks and expressed his fears over the Tory party’s “reckless” spending and no-deal pledges.
Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think an election solves our problem here. I would not support an election at the moment.
“Ironically, a few weeks ago we were being asked to give assurances that we wouldn't vote against the government in a vote of no confidence and now we're being asked to vote to turn the government out.”
The Tory rebel said a confirmatory referendum “is not my preferred option”, but did not rule one out.
On the fiscal headroom, he said: “The economy is slowing down and the government has made a number of very significant spending commitments and I do worry that the Conservative Party's core message for many, many years whether people like us or loathe us has been that we are a responsible party with the economy and the public finances.
“And I do worry about a strategy which is reckless about our economic future in terms of advocating no-deal Brexit and reckless about our public finances in terms of spending money that, frankly, at this point in the Brexit negotiation, we cannot be sure we have available.”
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng has been talking about Andrea Leadsom’s comments about sending two separate letters to Brussels – one disavowing the request for a Brexit extension required by the Benn Act.
Asked about whether the UK could send a second letter, Kwarteng told the Today programme: “That’s speculation. What the government has said repeatedly is that we will comply with the law. Absolutely.
Pressed on whether it would comply with the law, he said: “I’m not a lawyer so I am not going to comment on that.
“That’s knowledge I am not privy to. I think that what we are going to do is deliver Brexit.
“The main point is a deal which was written off as something impossible is actually something that is possible and we are working very hard.”
Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s desire to agree to a general election once no-deal is taken off the table, parliamentary supporters of a second referendum could hijack an emergency sitting of the Commons on 19 October to force a public vote on any Brexit outcome.
The idea is being discussed behind the scenes by MPs who are increasingly confident they have a majority to enshrine a Final Say referendum.
Gordon Brown is speaking in St Andrews this morning, warning that a no-deal Brexit will make the UK a “paradise” for speculators, spivs and smugglers to make money.
“Speculators are poised to swoop on stockpiles of medicines and food supplies and to profit from a hit to the pound, and even from the sale of carbon credits that were originally designed to protect our environment,” Brown is expected to say.
“It is inevitable that we will see a return of the spiv, as speculation around food and medicine shortages and the falling pound are guaranteed to reward them handsomely.
“While - to avoid profiteering - the NHS has already banned the export of 30 drugs to Europe for the foreseeable future, I fear many more medical supplies could be taken from stockpiles and sold abroad in a wave of cashing in.
“And even food is set to become a plaything, with a combination of shortages, stockpiling and a fall in the pound making ruthless profiteering possible at the expense of food price rises for hard-pressed families.”
Could Boris Johnson have lied to his own MPs? Or has a senior Tory made the mistake of “over-interpreting” something the PM said?
Damian Green and his group of moderate “One Nation” Tories have threatened Boris Johnson with a mass walk-out if No 10 tries to make the party back a no-deal Brexit explicitly at a snap general election.
After meeting Johnson at Downing Street with some of the group, Green said he had received assurances the party would not go into an election arguing for an immediate no-deal exit.
“We looked each other in the eye. I accept and believe the reassurances,” said Green. “He has no intention of putting a no-deal policy in a manifesto.”
Despite the heavy eye contact, there are suggestions this morning Johnson has not ruled out the idea of a no-deal manifesto.
A senior Downing Street official has told Politico: “We are keeping our options open. I suspect Green has over-interpreted the meeting. There are many cards left to play in the game before we get to a manifesto.”
Philip Hammond has been talking about why Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan is doomed to fail.
The former chancellor has also said talk of “loopholes” to around the Benn Act requiring a Brexit delay is “just bravado”.
Asked on Sky News about No 10’s claim they have a way to get out of the EU by 31 October, Hammond said: “I don’t care what they’re saying in Downing Street. This is bravado. There is no way round the Benn Act. The prime minister has given an assurance in the Scottish court that he will deliver the obligations.”
“It’s not a parliamentary issue – it’s a legal issue.”
Hammond laid out his plan for a zero-tariff trade deal with the EU in The Telegraph this morning.
The government is said to be considering sending a second letter to the EU along with the first letter required by the Benn Act requesting an extension to Article 50.
Asked on ITV’s Peston if Johnson could still send a second letter explaining he doesn’t actually want an extension, business secretary Andrea Leadsom replied “absolutely” and said it was “perfectly reasonable” to make the government’s view clear.
According to the BBC, there are still discussions going on in Downing Street about sending a second letter.
Despite Leadsom’s comments, some cabinet ministers appear to have accepted what the Benn Act requires – a delay, and no crash-out Brexit on 31 October. One told Laura Kuenssberg that “the EU will do what it always does, play long, and we’ll have to agree”.
SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC has said the Benn Act expressly forbids such “silly tricks” as second letters.
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng has said this morning that the government will “comply with the law”.
The Jennifer Arcuri story just won’t go away for Boris Johnson.
The London Assembly said the confidential letter submitted by the prime minister “doesn’t answer any of the questions we asked”, raising the possibility he will be summoned to City Hall to answer questions in person.
Chair of the oversight committee Len Duvall said they would respect a request not to publish Mr Johnson’s response “at this stage”, but were seeking further information from the PM.
Jeremy Corbyn is in Northampton today, where he will say Labour is “champing at the bit” for a general election as soon as no deal is off the table.
Many Labour MPs are uneasy about an election before a second referendum. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has been asked about that “sequencing” this morning.
“My concern might be that if we had a general election it would be a kind of quasi-referendum,” she told BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. “So to a certain extent I can see the sense in trying to have a referendum first, it’s really just a question of how we do that in practice.”
Asked if she is lobbying Corbyn to have a referendum first, before a general election. “A number of us are trying to think of a way through this.
“A general election should be about a whole load of issues – if all of the oxygen is swallowed up on the issue of Brexit, the decision we make on Brexit will ensure which government is in for five years. And they won’t be just be dealing with Brexit. There is life after Brexit.”
Jeremy Corbyn has begun his speech in Northampton, setting out Labour’s stall for a general election – if there’s to be one in the months ahead.
He denied his party was avoiding an election, but said it did not trust Boris Johnson not to force through a no-deal during an election campaign.
“Prime minister, we can’t trust you not to break the law because you’ve got form,” he said.
“We can’t trust you not to use the period of an election campaign to drive our country off a no-deal cliff-edge that will crash our economy, destroy jobs and industries, cause shortages of medicine and food and endanger peace in Northern Ireland.
“So it’s simple: obey the law, take no-deal off the table and then let’s have the election.”
“We’re ready and champing at the bit. There’s only one reason it hasn’t happened yet – we can’t trust you.”