Boris Johnson declares it is ‘folly’ to rule out suspending Parliament for Brexit and should stay as 'essential tool'

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Boris Johnson has said it would be “absolutely folly” to rule out suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit against the will of MPs.

The former foreign secretary said in a Tory leadership hustings on Thursday that the controversial measure should remain as “an essential tool of our negotiation”.

The MP has previously declined to rule it out, but the comments appear to be the strongest signal he has given that “proroguing” Parliament should remain an option.

Mr Johnson’s comments came after he pledged to take the UK out of the EU by the Halloween deadline “do or die”, regardless of whether he could negotiate a new deal with Brussels.

The subject of a no-deal Brexit has so fartaken centre stage in this Conservative leadership race.

Earlier this week, Mr Johnson's rival for the Tory crown, Jeremy Hunt said that he would not force a general election, should Parliament take the option of no-deal off the table.

Mr Johnson, who is seen as the front runner, has previously said he would call a general election should MPs pass a bill to take away the option of no-deal.

Downing Street has condemned moves by MPs to shut down Government spending in the event of a no-deal Brexit as “grossly irresponsible”.

Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve and Labour grandee Dame Margaret Beckett have tabled an amendment which would deny departments access to funding in the event of no-deal unless it has been specifically approved by MPs.

The move, which follows Mr Johnson’s pledge to take Britain out of the EU by the end of October aims to make it harder for the next prime minister to leave without a deal with Brussels in place.

If it succeeds in a Commons vote on Tuesday, it could cut off cash to four Whitehall departments – education, housing, communities and local government, international development and work and pensions.

Brexit is the key issue shaping the Tory leadership debate. Credit: PA

During the hustings on Thursday in Bournemouth, Mr Johnson said he wanted to be the prime minister of a “representative democracy, a great representative democracy in which we believe in our elected representatives to take the right decision”.

“I would rather than confiding in this archaic device to get this thing done at my own behest, I would rather confide in the maturity of common sense of parliamentarians, all of whom are now staring down the barrel of public distrust,” he said.

But he was challenged to categorically rule out taking the drastic measure.

“I’m not attracted to the idea of a no-deal exit from the EU but, you know, I think it would be absolutely folly to rule it out. I think it’s an essential tool of our negotiation,” he replied.

“I don’t envisage the circumstances in which it will be necessary to prorogue Parliament, nor am I attracted to that expedient.”

Since-eliminated contenders for the Tory crown – including Sajid Javid, Rory Stewart and Michael Gove – have previously roundly criticised the notion, which could drag the Queen into a constitutional crisis.

Mr Johnson’s comments came after he pledged to take the UK out of the EU by the Halloween deadline “do or die”, regardless of whether he could negotiate a new deal with Brussels.

On Thursday he also stuck by his comments that the chances of a no-deal exit were “a million-to-one against”.

Earlier in the day, Mr Johnson pledged to deliver an Australian-style points-based immigration system if he becomes prime minister.

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt has promised to write off tuition fee debt for young entrepreneurs who start up new businesses and take on staff.

Also during the hustings a bizarre tongue-in-cheek row emerged when Mr Hunt challenged leadership rival Mr Johnson to a post-debate wrestle, following an argument over who would win such a contest.

The question of the respective candidates' prowess in the ring arose thanks to an interview with Mr Johnson on the ConservativeHome website in which he insisted he would be the victor.

Mr Hunt responded on Twitter simply by saying: "Absolutely not."