Published: Wed, July 10, 2019
Entertaiment | By Paul Elliott

Britain's PM hopefuls battle over Brexit in bad-tempered debate

Britain's PM hopefuls battle over Brexit in bad-tempered debate

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has been taken to task over his defence of Boris Johnson's comments that Donald Trump is "stupifyingly ignorant" after he criticised British ambassador Sir Kim Darroch's leaked comments about the President's "inept" administration.

During an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today program, Major, who was Britain's PM from 1990 to 1997, insisted that if Johnson asks the Queen to prorogue parliament, he and many others would be willing to take legal action against the leadership favorite.

Major told the BBC on Wednesday it would be "utterly and totally unacceptable" for any British leader to shut down Parliament - and that he would seek a judicial review to stop it. "If her first minister asks for that permission, it is nearly inconceivable that the queen will do anything other than grant it".

He added, "She is then in the midst of a constitutional controversy that no serious politician should put the queen in the middle of".

Major said he believed a "queue of people" would challenge any prorogation in court.

Johnson, the favourite in the Conservative Party's leadership race, has repeatedly refused to rule out suspending - known as prorouging - parliament.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who is supporting Mr Johnson's leadership bid, said Sir Kim is an "incredible public servant" who was "doing his job in writing those memos".

The question of suspending parliament was raised during a televised debate between Johnson and Hunt, the foreign minister, on Tuesday evening.

Major - who as Conservative prime minister in 1993 brought the United Kingdom into the Maastricht Treaty which officially founded the European Union, in subsequent years putting supremacy of Brussels offices over the British parliament - continued: "I served in Parliament for over 20 years, I am very proud to have done so, I have huge admiration for our Parliament traditions - I am not going to stand by to see them disregarded in this fashion".

Mr Hunt instead said he would keep the diplomat in his post until the end of his four-year term. Parliament won. King Charles I was tried and executed.

But Mr Johnson said it would be "presumptuous" of him to commit to keeping the ambassador on and criticised the leaking of the cables. "I seem to recall that the Brexiteers, led by Mr. Johnson, actually campaigned in the referendum for the sovereignty of Parliament".

The Foreign Officer Minister said Boris Johnson threw Sir Kim "under the bus" because he "think's he's going to be the next Prime Minister" and that he wanted to "suck up to the President of the United States".

"National leaders look first at the interests of the country - not first at the interests of themselves", he said. I'm not going to stand by and see [parliamentary traditions] disregarded in this fashion.

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