Lawmakers from the Labour and Conservative parties stepped forward and announced that they are ready to lead an anti-Brexit government to make sure a no-deal Brexit does not happen, according to the pro-EU liberal democrats.
The suggestion that either Conservative Ken Clarke or Labour’s Harriet Harman – parliament’s longest serving man and woman – could take charge was the latest sign that foes of an abrupt exit from the EU are joining forces to unseat Boris Johnson to stop it.
Johnson, who became prime minister last month after winning a vote among Conservatives for party leadership, says Britain must leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.
But he has a working majority of just a single seat in parliament, and several of his own Conservatives have suggested they could vote no confidence in his government to stop a no-deal Brexit they believe would be disastrous for the economy.
Anti-Brexit politicians have yet to settle on a strategy for what would happen next. The main opposition Labour Party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, wants a caretaker government with himself as head, and then an election.
But other opponents of a no-deal Brexit worry that Corbyn, a staunch leftist, would not have enough support from across the aisle to form a government. Jo Swinson, leader of the centrist pro-European Union Liberal Democrats, has proposed a caretaker government led by either Clarke or Harman, former cabinet ministers from the centrist wings of the two main parties.
On Friday Swinson told BBC radio she had spoken to both of them, and both said they would be willing to serve.
“They put public duty first and they don’t want to see a no-deal Brexit,” Swinson said. “If the House of Commons asks them to lead an emergency government to get our country out of this Brexit mess and to stop us driving off that cliff to a no deal, then yes they are prepared to do that.”
Clarke is the longest-serving member of parliament and held senior cabinet positions under Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron. Harman is parliament’s longest-serving woman and was briefly Labour’s acting leader before Corbyn took charge.