Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson goes to war with Boris Johnson: ‘I won’t support no-deal Brexit’
Warning follows Michael Gove’s remarks that government is ‘operating on assumption’ of UK exiting EU without a deal
Her frank warning came as Michael Gove, who is now in charge of no-deal preparations at the Cabinet Office, said the government is “operating on the assumption” of the UK leaving the bloc without a deal.
While the aim for the new prime minister is still to leave with an agreement, his hardline approach and vow to “abolish” the backstop has been stonewalled by Brussels, who have refused to change their position.
“With a new prime minister, a new government, a new clarity of mission, we will exit from the EU on 31 October. No ifs. No buts. No more delay. Brexit is happening,” Mr Gove wrote in the The Sunday Times.
Sajid Javid, the new chancellor, will also ramp up preparations for a no-deal scenario this week by announcing a £1bn spending package to be made available to government departments.
But in a sign of frustration at the approach of the new government, Ms Davidson, who is often referred to as a rising star in the Conservative Party, used a newspaper column to outline her opposition.
In the Scottish Mail on Sunday, Ms Davidson said: “I hope beyond measure the new prime minister is successful in getting an agreement with the EU so he can go back to the House of Commons and get the majority backing he needs. He has my full support in those efforts.
“Where I differ with the UK Government is on the question of a no-deal Brexit.
“When I was debating against the pro-Brexit side in 2016, I don’t remember anybody saying we should crash out of the EU with no arrangements in place to help maintain the vital trade that flows uninterrupted between Britain and the EU.
“I don’t think the government should pursue a no-deal Brexit and, if it comes it, I won’t support it,” she added. “I wrote to tell the former prime minister Theresa May that last year and I confirmed my position to her successor when I spoke to him last week.”
Ms Davison, who has previously been highly critical of Mr Johnson, added: “As leader of the party in Scotland, my position exists independently of government. I don’t have to sign a no-deal pledge to continue to serve.”
Her remarks follow claims that Philip Hammond, who resigned as chancellor before Mr Johnson took office, had held meetings with Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer in an effort to prevent the new prime minister seeing through a no-deal exit from the EU.
Sir Keir told The Observer the “political direction of travel under Boris Johnson is clear” and that it was “more important than ever that we build a strong cross-party alliance to stop a no-deal Brexit”.
He added: “That work will intensify over the summer, before parliament resumes in September.”
It was also claimed that Mr Johnson had set up a “war cabinet” in order to deliver Brexit “by any means necessary”. It will meet for the first time on Monday, and consist of Mr Gove, Mr Javid, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, and the attorney general Geoffrey Cox.
In response to Mr Gove’s comments, mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “It beggars belief that the government is now operating on the assumption that a no deal Brexit will happen.
“With the devastating consequences that crashing out of the EU would have on jobs, growth, public safety, food supply and living standards in London and across the UK there is only one sensible course of action for the government to take.
“The new prime minister should immediately withdraw Article 50, allowing time for a public vote to be held so the country can decide what course it wants to take – with remain as an option on the ballot paper.”