Parliament can stop UK leaving EU – says shadow chancellor John McDonnell

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PARLIAMENT can stop the UK leaving the EU without negotiating a deal, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell claimed yesterday.

He said he could ‘not countenance’ such a situation and Parliament had the power to force the government to concede a ‘meaningful vote’ on the final deal, by amending the EU Withdrawal Bill or other relevant legislation related to Brexit.

McDonnell told the Andrew Marr Show: ‘No deal is not an option. There are enough sensible people in the House of Commons to stop this happening.’ Urging ministers to stop ‘squabbling’ among themselves, he added: ‘They should come to their senses, behave responsibly and look after the interests of the country.’

He said there was ‘not a majority’ in the House of Commons for leaving the EU without a deal and he would work with other parties to stop a ‘damaging’ outcome. The shadow chancellor urged Tory ministers to ‘come to their senses’ and publish legal advice on what are the UK’s financial obligations to the EU in their so-called divorce bill, claiming that it was ‘perfectly reasonable’ to do this.

Labour, he said, believed the UK should honour its legal obligations but he said the final figure should not be anywhere near the £60bn that has been quoted in some quarters. Labour will vote against Britain leaving the EU without a reaching a deal on the terms of its withdrawal, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told Peston on Sunday.

Starmer said: ‘I think it’s blindingly obvious to everybody that we’re not going to complete the whole final deal scenario within the two years for Article 50 and therefore we have a pretty stark choice. Either we go off the cliff with no deal which would be disastrous or we go on to sensible transitional arrangements.’

Labour has tabled a series of amendments that would bind the government to a transitional period after Brexit, during which the UK would in effect remain inside the single market and customs union.

Starmer said parliament should have a say on whatever the Article 50 deal is, adding: ‘I hope it’s a deal, and I hope it’s got transitional in it.’ He also insisted that there should be a vote in the event of a ‘no deal’ which would be ‘disastrous and cannot simply be waived through. We want a vote on it and I can tell you we’ll vote against it.’