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Brexit

'Many MPs' would work to block no-deal departure, Brexit Secretary warns

REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The Brexit Secretary has warned the next prime minister that "many MPs" will work to stop attempts to depart the EU without a deal.

Stephen Barclay's words came as Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt faced mounting threats of legal challenges and parliamentary manoeuvres.

Both men vying for the Conservative crown have threatened to pull the UK out of the bloc without a deal if necessary.

But Tory former prime minister Sir John Major has suggested he could use the courts to prevent certain efforts by Theresa May's successor to push through a no-deal exit without MPs' support.

Mr Barclay said on Monday that the legal default is an exit on October 31, but that MPs could thwart this.

"Of course, it's for Members of Parliament to seek to change that if they wish," he told BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show.

"Now, they'd need to pass legislation in order to do so, to change the law because the legal default is we would leave without a deal.

"But it would be for Parliament to seek legislation - that's obviously challenging for Parliament to secure - but there will be many MPs, I'm sure, that will try."

The next PM can either convince colleagues to back the current deal - or a newly-negotiated one - or take the risky move of calling a general election in a bid to change the make-up of the House of Commons.

But front-runner Mr Johnson, who said the UK would depart by the Halloween deadline "do or die", has refused to rule out the apparent option of proroguing Parliament to force through a no-deal without the backing of MPs.

Sir John's pledge to challenge such a suspension gained support from Chancellor Philip Hammond.

And businesswoman Gina Miller also raised the possibility of a legal fight, saying no-deal attempts "would be beyond a prime minister's powers".

The campaigner previously won a legal bid for Parliament to give its consent ahead of the Government triggering Article 50 to start the Brexit countdown.

Mr Barclay's comments on Monday came after divisions among Tories were further demonstrated when Tory former minister Guto Bebb said he would not stand for re-selection as a Conservative at the next election.

Mr Bebb, who resigned as a defence minister last year by voting against the Government on EU customs legislation, warned that the Tories were appealing to nationalists and that he could support neither Mr Hunt nor Mr Johnson.