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MPs vote to STOP Boris Johnson suspending Parliament in run-up to Brexit

Theresa May has shown her final act of weakness by failing to sack her chancellor Philip Hammond, who sent text messages to fellow ministers to ignore a three-line whip on suspending the Commons. 

Some 17 Tory MPs voted against the government, while 30 abstained. Mr Hammond was among those to have ignored the instruction to vote for the government - the first time in memory a chancellor has done this and not resigned or being sacked. 

This led to a furious response from Brexiteer Cabinet ministers who will demand action by the new PM when he is installed in Number 10 next week.   

Backers of Mr Johnson said proroguing parliament in the run up to October 31 to stop a last minute attempt to thwart a disorderly divorce was 'never going to happen'. 

One minister, Margot James, quit to join a Tory mutiny while others, including Chancellor Philip Hammond, opted to abstain in order to ensure the move succeeded. 

But Tory Eurosceptics said the rebels had 'wasted their bloody time' because Mr Johnson never planned to spark a constitutional crisis by sending MPs home in the run up to Halloween if he becomes PM next week. 

One senior Conservative MP mocked the 17 Tory rebels and 30 abstainers who aided opposition MPs today as they said: 'They are the stupidest bunch of generals I have ever come across.' 

The government was trounced by 315 votes to 274 despite imposing a three-line whip - meaning that Tories who failed to oppose the measure should have faced punishment.  

But Downing Street was left humiliated after it admitted a swathe of more senior Conservatives who were among the abstainers - including Mr Hammond, David Gauke, Greg Clark and Rory Stewart - would not face any punishment.  

Mr Hammond boasted after the vote about his failure to back the government as he reignited his war of words with Mr Johnson. 

The former mayor of London has repeatedly refused to rule out proroguing parliament to stop MPs trying to block No Deal during the Tory leadership contest. 

The Chancellor tweeted after the result: 'It should not be controversial to believe that Parliament be allowed to sit, and have a say, during a key period in our country's history.' 

Philip Hammond, pictured today at the door of Number 11 Downing Street, appeared to delight in the government's defeat as he said MPs must 'have a say' over Brexit in the run up to October 31

Margot James quit as culture minister in order to vote in favour of the successful bid by Remainer MPs to make a No Deal Brexit more difficult

The amendment passed by the House of Commons is designed to thwart any effort by the new PM to suspend Parliament to ensure Brexit happens on October 31

The move by MPs today could make it much more difficult for Boris Johnson, pictured arriving in Westminster yesterday, to deliver on his 'do or die' Brexit pledge

In a sign that Theresa May's authority over the government had all but gone, her spokesman said: 'The Prime Minister is obviously disappointed that a number of ministers failed to vote in this afternoon's division.  

'No doubt her successor will take this into account when forming their government.' 

According to The Telegraph, Mr Hammond sent fellow ministers text messages urging them to ignore the three-line whip.

One cabinet source said: 'There is incredulity that he hasn't been sacked and there is a lot of anger directed against the popele who have done this.

'Whoever succeeds Theresa May will have to put the party back together and restore discipline quickly.'

Mr Johnson's leadership rival Jeremy Hunt apologised after a mix-up with whips meant he did not vote, saying he would have followed the government line. 

Sources in the whips' office told MailOnline ministers should fall on their swords if they failed to vote with the government.

'Abstainers should walk too, but that won't happen,' they jibed. 

Mr Johnson, the overwhelming favourite to succeed Mrs May next week, has kept suspending parliament to force through No Deal as an option although he has made clear it would not be his first choice.

The result this afternoon means that ministers will be legally obliged to come to the Commons and stage votes at regular intervals in October - making suspending the House to force No Deal all-but impossible.  

But many Tory Brexiteer MPs believe the Remainer rebels wasted their time because Mr Johnson has no plans to suspend Parliament. 

One told MailOnline: 'It is amazing that so many people were willing to put their necks on the block for something that was never going to happen.' 

Another senior Conservative MP said: 'They have wasted their bloody time. They have spent weeks on something that was never going to happen.

'They are the stupidest bunch of generals I have ever come across.'

Another senior Tory Eurosceptic said: 'Many people would not expect the prorogation to actually take place anyway - there has been a lot of hoo-ha about this.'

But the fact that so many Tory MPs either voted for the amendment or abstained left many rank and file backbenchers angry. 

One reportedly said in a Tory WhatsApp group: 'Many people had to rearrange holidays with family to be in today to see ministers abstain.

'They should all be fired. This is a team game!'

The latest Commons Brexit clash was teed up when the Lords passed amendments to new laws on Northern Ireland yesterday.

Tory Remainer rebels who backed the anti-No Deal amendment

A group of 17 Tory MPs rebelled against the government to vote in favour of an amendment which makes a No Deal Brexit harder to pursue. 

They are:

Guto Bebb

Steve Brine

Alistair Burt

Jonathan Djanogly

Justine Greening

Dominic Grieve

Sam Gyimah

Richard Harrington

Margot James

Phillip Lee

Jeremy Lefroy

Sir Oliver Letwin

Paul Masterton

Sarah Newton

Antoinette Sandbach

Keith Simpson

Edward Vaizey

Labour joined Liberal Democrats and leading independent crossbenchers in the upper house to try to scupper what opposition peers branded a 'constitutional outrage'.

The change to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill requires progress reports on restoring devolved government in the province to be debated regularly in Parliament, effectively preventing it being prorogued.

A cross-party tweak tabled by Labour's Hilary Benn and Tory Alistair Burt has now effectively beefed up the obstacles by stating that Parliament must meet within five days if a minister is unable to deliver a report because the House has been suspended. 

The amendment was signed by Conservatives including rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve, former Cabinet ministers Justine Greening and Sir Oliver Letwin, and ex-ministers Phillip Lee, Guto Bebb and Sam Gyimah.

With the government's effective majority  standing at just four, the numbers always appeared to be stacked in favour of the rebels.

However, the scale of the defeat was a stinging blow for Mrs May as she prepares to vacate Downing Street. 

Tory MPs were on a three-line whip for the divisions this afternoon - which meant they could have faced disciplinary action if they refused to vote against  the amendment.

But many disregarded the instruction in order to make sure the amendment passed.  

Sources close to Mr Hammond told MailOnline that the Chancellor had formally abstained in the vote which meant he was actually present in the Commons when it took place, in open defiance of the government whips.

Mr Hammond is a vocal critic of Mr Johnson's Brexit plan, with the Chancellor certain to be sacked or quit if the latter does become PM. 

He is vehemently against No Deal and has vowed to do everything he can as a backbench MP to stop a disorderly divorce from Brussels which he believes would be catastrophic for the UK economy.

He appeared to delight in the government defeat this afternoon as he tweeted: 'The Conservative Party has always, at its core, had a fundamental belief in the importance of strong institutions – and in a representative democracy there can be no more vital institution than it's Parliament.

'It should not be controversial to believe that Parliament be allowed to sit, and have a say, during a key period in our country's history.' 

Mr Hunt risked ridicule after he missed the crunch vote by mistake because he thought he had been given permission to skip it.

He tweeted his apologies and made clear that he believed MPs should not try to block No Deal.  

Mr Johnson's leadership rival Jeremy Hunt apologised after a mix-up with whips meant he did not vote, saying he would have followed the government line

During a fractious debate before the vote, Remainer MPs tried to toughen their colleagues' resolve, with Ms Greening warning that failing to pass the amendment today would be 'crossing the rubicon' on No Deal. 

Mr Grieve said the role of MPs as protectors of democracy would be 'shot to pieces' if they did not support the change. 

Labour former minister Hilary Benn said it was unacceptable for Parliament to be 'missing in action' while Brexit happened.

Mr Benn said: 'I think it would be rather odd, would it not, for the House to legislate to provide for these reports and motions on specified dates only to find itself not being here to consider the report and to debate the motions because of some other action, namely the fact we might not be sitting?'

Tory rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve (pictured in the Commons today) has signed an amendment aiming to prevent the new PM suspending Parliament to force No Deal

Labour's Hilary Benn (pictured in the chamber today) pushed an amendment to force ministers to hold votes in Parliament before Brexit happens 

He added: 'Brexit has significant implications for the country as a whole, but it will have particular implications for Northern Ireland.'

He said it is important to make sure the House is sitting at a 'crucial time for our country'.

He said: 'I don't think we could accept circumstances, if I may coin the phrase, in which we were sent missing in action.'

The Tory big beasts who abstained on crunch No Deal vote

A group of 30 Conservative MPs abstained on the crunch amendment which makes the path to a No Deal Brexit much more difficult. 

Some will have had permission to miss the vote because of official business but many will have sat out the vote in order to reduce the government's numbers and make a defeat more likely. 

Some of those who abstained are: 

Chancellor Philip Hammond 

Business Secretary Greg Clark

Justice Secretary David Gauke

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley 

Education Minister Anne Milton

Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan

However, the DUP's Nigel Dodds and Ian Paisley complained that the legislation - designed to stave off the need for an early Northern Ireland assembly election while efforts continue to restore Stormont - was being hijacked for other purposes.  

Tory leader front runner Mr Johnson again refused at the final campaign hustings last night to rule out proroguing - suspending - Parliament in order to meet his red line of getting the UK out of the EU by October 31.

Mr Hunt has insisted he would not use such a constitutional manoeuvre to force EU withdrawal.

After her resignation, Ms James told the BBC's Newsnight programme she had become 'increasingly uncomfortable' with the direction of travel on Brexit. 

'Over the course of the last few months I've been increasingly uncomfortable about the way the rhetoric is developing on Brexit,' she said. 

'My constituents voted to leave in Stourbridge by 70 per cent, so I've honoured that commitment, voted for the prime minister's deal three times, but when that didn't get through parliament I became more and more worried that there is the potential to crash out with No Deal at the end of October. 

'The fact that Boris Johnson, and he hasn't won yet by the way but obviously he may, is not ruling out proroguing parliament, I felt that this time that rather than just abstain I would vote for the amendments that will make it more difficult.

'Nothing has been easy, but today I do feel better in that I have still been loyal to what my constituents voted for but I don't wish to risk parliament being shut up in order to push a no deal Brexit through, which I don't think people voted for.'

How does the amendment stop the PM suspending Parliament to force No Deal Brexit? 

The changes to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill would make it extremely difficult for a new PM to use prorogation to force No Deal against the will of MPs.

In theory the tactic could have meant Parliament being suspended during the run-up to Brexit at the end of October to stop MPs launching a bid to block a disorderly divorce.  

But ministers are now obliged to make fortnightly reports to the Commons from the start of September on efforts to restore the powersharing executive at Stormont.

Those reports must be accompanied by votes on 'neutral motions' - which could potentially be used by rebellious MPs to attack No Deal.

As a belt and braces measure, MPs have now demanded that if for any reason the government refuses to report to Parliament because it is suspended, they must convene the Commons and hold a vote.

Any PM who wanted to try the prorogation tactic now would probably have to flout the law.

However, some Brexiteers believe the amendment is essentially meaningless because the date of departure is set in law and the only way to change it would be for MPs to pass new legislation. 

Eurosceptics believe there is no procedural mechanism to allow them to do that. 

But Remainers believe that when should it come to the crunch Commons Speaker John Bercow could tear up the rule book to enable them to act. 

The amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill builds on an amendment passed in the Commons last week, when MPs backed a proposal from the pro-European Tory Dominic Grieve calling for fortnightly reports from the Government on the efforts to restore the power-sharing executive.

The new Lords amendment was designed ensure these have to be debated in the weeks before the Brexit deadline. 

Tory Phillip Lee, who supports the People's Vote campaign for a second referendum, was jubilant after the result.

'More and more Conservatives who care deeply about the national interest are now standing up for our democracy and our country,' he said. 

'The sight of ministers resigning on this point of principle and others abstaining should give heart to all of us who believe we can avert catastrophe. 'Conservatives should not be trying to force a destructive Brexit on Britain when it is clear this was not what people voted for. 

'Conservatives should not be inflicting a no deal on Britain when this was barely even mentioned in 2016. Conservatives should not even be thinking about bypassing either Parliament or the people on a crisis as momentous as Brexit. 

'But, within days, more ministers will be sent to the backbenches and will be free to rebel against a disastrous no-deal. 

'Parliament is in gridlock and there is no prospect of this changing any time soon. That is why there is a growing number of Conservatives who are turning to a pragmatic, democratic and patriotic solution of putting the decision back to the people in a final say referendum. 

'When every other option has been ruled out, a People's Vote must and will emerge as the only viable and democratic solution to this crisis.' 

However, Conservative Brexiteer Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: 'I can't understand why my colleagues are voting with Jeremy Corbyn on this. 

The DUP's Nigel Dodds (pictured) complained that the legislation - designed to stave off the need for an early Northern Ireland assembly election while efforts continue to restore Stormont - was being hijacked for other purposes

'Do they want a hard left government to take control of their country? If they hated the prospect of delivering the referendum result, why did they vote for Article 50 in the first place? 

'Their disruptive amendments are cynical and corrosive, but they don't change the underlying legal realities one jot: we are leaving on October 31 with or without a deal. 

'When will my colleagues tell us what they really think and start calling for Article 50 to be reversed?' 

Theresa May slaps down Michel Barnier's claim she 'never told him no deal was a Brexit option' 

Downing Street angrily denied claims from a top Brussels bureaucrat today that Theresa May 'never' suggested Britain might opt for a No Deal Brexit during three years of negotiations with Brussels.

The Prime Minister 'was clear both in public and in private that the UK was prepared to leave without a deal' her spokesman said this morning after claims made by Michel Barnier in a BBC documentary. 

Number 10 also attacked the BBC's decision to promote tonight's Panorama by interviewing Mr Barnier on its flagship Today programme this morning.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: 'How nice it was to hear from Michel Barnier again this morning. 

'How generous it was of the BBC to give him a platform to share his views with us all. 

'The Prime Minister had a series of conversations with EU leaders throughout the course of the negotiations and she was clear both in public and in private that the UK may leave without a deal.'

Mr Gauke said proroguing Parliament would be 'outrageous' but did not confirm whether he would back measures seeking to block it.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I will have to see what the precise amendments are and we're hearing what the whipping will be and the arguments for that so I'm not in a position to necessarily say.

'But what I would say is the idea that Parliament should be suspended in October - a period where it always sits, Parliament has always in recent years sat at that time of year.

'And at a crucial point in this country's history if you like that Parliament should not be able to sit, should not be able to express its opinion and its will, I think would be outrageous.

'I very much doubt that any prime minister would in fact suspend Parliament in these circumstances but I can understand the concerns that a lot of my colleagues have.'

Downing Street angrily denied claims from a top Brussels bureaucrat today that Theresa May 'never' suggested Britain might opt for a No Deal Brexit during three years of negotiations with Brussels.

The Prime Minister 'was clear both in public and in private that the UK was prepared to leave without a deal' her spokesman said this morning after claims made by Michel Barnier in a BBC documentary. 

Number 10 also attacked the BBC's decision to promote tonight's Panorama by interviewing Mr Barnier on its flagship Today programme this morning.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: 'How nice it was to hear from Michel Barnier again this morning. 

'How generous it was of the BBC to give him a platform to share his views with us all. 

'The Prime Minister had a series of conversations with EU leaders throughout the course of the negotiations and she was clear both in public and in private that the UK may leave without a deal.'

No Deal would trigger a year-long RECESSION and 10% slump in the Pound 

A no-deal Brexit will send Britain into a recession and leave a £30billion hole in the public finances, the UK's budget watchdog warned today.

In its first assessment of the economic impact of crashing out without a deal this Autumn, the Office for Budget Responsibility said the Pound would nosedive by 10 per cent and the stock market by 5 per cent, pushing up inflation.

It said trade barriers and 'declining confidence' would make the economy shrink 2 per cent by the end of 2020, with the slump lasting a year. 

However, Chancellor Philip Hammond warned that even the OBR's grim assessment underplayed the real risk - saying vision of No Deal being pushed by Boris Johnson would mean the country is 'hit much harder'. 

In the executive summary of its latest forecast, the OBR said of a No Deal scenario: 'Heightened uncertainty and declining confidence deter investment, while higher trade barriers with the EU weigh on exports.

The OBR estimated that under a 'benign' No Deal scenario real GDP will fall by 2.1 per cent by the fourth quarter of 2019, around the same as in the early-1990s recession

Chancellor Philip Hammond (in Paris for a meeting of G7 ministers) warned that even that grim OBR assessment underplayed the real risk - and the vision of No Deal being pushed by Boris Johnson would mean the country is 'hit much harder'

'Together, these push the economy into recession, with asset prices and the pound falling sharply. 

'Real GDP falls by 2 per cent by the end of 2020 and is 4 per cent below our March forecast by that point.

The OBR said the housing market would drop by 10 per cent if the aftermath of a No Deal. 

The watchdog also said its scenario was 'relatively benign' and did not consider the prospect of France deliberately hampering trade across borders. 

'This scenario is not necessarily the most likely outcome and it is relatively benign compared to some (for example, assuming limited short-term border disruptions),' the report said. 

'But it still adds around £30billion a year to borrowing from 2020-21 onwards and around 12 per cent of GDP to net debt by 2023-24, compared with our March forecast baseline.' 

Last November, the Bank of England warned the economy could shrink by eight per cent by 2035 and that interest rates would have to rise by 5.5 per cent to offset the impact. 

Responding to the report, Mr Hammond said it showed there would be a 'very significant hit' even in the 'most benign version' of No Deal.

In a swipe at Mr Johnson, he said: 'But that most benign version is not the version that is being talked about by prominent Brexiteers.

'They are talking about a much harder version, which would cause much more disruption to our economy, and the OBR is clear that in that less benign version of no-deal the hit would be much greater, the impact would be much harder, the recession would be bigger.

'So, I greatly fear the impact on our economy and our public finances of the kind of no-deal Brexit that is realistically being discussed now.' 

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