A British Cabinet minister has refused to confirm that the government would abide by any law preventing a no-deal Brexit if one is forced through Parliament this week.
Questioned on Sunday about what the government would do if attempts in Parliament by the opposition were successful to prevent the UK exiting the European Union without a deal, Michael Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “You’re asking me about a pig in a poke and I will wait to see what legislation the opposition may try to bring forward.
“For me, the most important thing is to bear in mind actually, we already have legislation in place which an overwhelming majority of MPs voted for.”
Gove, who is responsible for no-deal planning, was speaking ahead of what is set to be one of the most tumultuous weeks in British politics.
On Tuesday Parliament resumes after a summer recess, and the showdown begins against Boris Johnson’s plan to suspend Parliament, a move opposition parties and Conservative Party rebels say limits opportunities for MPs to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Legal challenges are also expected to be heard in courts around the UK.
Johnson says lawmakers will have “ample time” to discuss Brexit before the October 31 deadline, which he has repeatedly pledged to stick to, “do or die.”
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said Gove’s stance was “breathtaking.”
“For ministers not to confirm that this Government will accept and comply with legislation lawfully passed is breathtaking,” the Labour Party politician tweeted.
“No Government is above the law.”
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Johnson warned would-be Brexit rebels in his own party against joining opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in his attempt to block a no deal.
“The fundamental choice is this: Are you going to side with Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to cancel the referendum?” he told the newspaper.
“Are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people – and plunge this country into chaos?
“Or are you going to side with those of us who want to get on, deliver the mandate of the people and focus with absolute, laser-like precision on the domestic agenda?”
Elsewhere, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Sunday he was “not optimistic” about avoiding a no-deal Brexit, as the bloc rejects the UK’s demands to scrap the Irish backstop.
That part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement would keep the UK closely aligned with the EU for an indefinite period in order to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Writing for the Sunday Telegraph, Barnier indicated that the offer presented by the EU on the Irish backstop represents “maximum flexibility,” and if a solution were to be agreed it must be in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by former PM Theresa May.
“On the EU side, we had intense discussions with EU member states on the need to guarantee the integrity of the EU’s single market, while keeping that border fully open,” Barnier wrote.
“In this sense, the backstop is the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state,” he said.
Several thousand protesters gathered at demonstrations around the UK Saturday to protest Johnson’s move to suspend Parliament.
Roughly 3,000 to 4,000 protesters gathered near Downing Street in London and demonstrations were held in other cities and towns around the country.
CNN’s Laura Perez Maestro, Nic Robertson, Vasco Cotovio and Duarte Mendonca contributed to this report.