Michael Gove risked escalating the raging Brexit row today by refusing to say whether the government would obey a law ruling out No Deal.
The Cabinet minister left open the prospect of ignoring legislation as the government and Remainers gear up for a titanic battle in Parliament this week.
Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems and Tory rebels are trying to seize control of Commons business so they can push through a Bill demanding Boris Johnson seeks an extension from Brussels rather than allowing the UK to crash out on October 31.
But asked today if the PM would obey such a law, Mr Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: ‘Let’s see what the legislation says.’
He also accused pro-EU MPs of being in a ‘denial of democracy’.
The comments drew a furious response from Remainers, with Labour’s Keir Starmer demanding an immediate statement from the PM. ‘No government is above the law,’ he said.
Mr Johnson, who has made a ‘do or die’ pledge to get the UK out of the EU by Halloween, today warned Tory rebels that derailing his Brexit plans risks condemning the country to ‘chaos’ with Jeremy Corbyn in power.
The PM said Remainers had a ‘fundamental choice’ between his ambitious agenda, including pumping billions of pounds into public services, or the hard-left Labour leader.
The stark ultimatum came ahead of showdown talks tomorrow between Mr Johnson and high-profile Conservative opponents of No Deal, including former Cabinet minister David Gauke.
Mr Gauke said this morning that he would be demanding to know how Mr Johnson proposed to get concessions from the EU, and whether there was even time left to ratify a deal if he gets one.
The meeting will kick off a frenzied week in Parliament that could decide the fate of the UK.
On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show today (pictured), Michael Gove left open the prospect of ignoring legislation as the government and Remainers gear up for a titanic battle in Parliament this week
Boris Johnson (pictured on Friday, left) has given Tory rebels an ultimatum ahead of a Commons clash over Brexit on Tuesday, warning: ‘It’s me or Jeremy Corbyn’ (pictured yesterday in Glasgow, right)
MPs are set to try to seize control of the Commons agenda to pass a law stopping the country from crashing out of the EU, with the votes looking nailbitingly close.
Downing Street has heaped pressure on ‘deceitful and underhand’ MPs plotting to thwart the PM’s plans.
And in an interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Johnson said: ‘I just say to everybody in the country, including everyone in parliament, the fundamental choice is this: are you going to side with Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to cancel the referendum?’
‘Are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people – and plunge this country into chaos.’
Asked about his meeting with Mr Johnson, Mr Gauke told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge programme: ‘I want to hear from him as to what is his plan to deliver a deal.
‘When are we putting forward proposals to deal with this backstop issue? ‘And, I want to hear how he plans to deliver the legislation if we get a deal by October 31, because at the moment, frankly, I can’t see how he’s got time to do that.’
The Commons returns from summer recess on Tuesday, when Remainers are set to try to seize control of the parliamentary agenda to push through legislation that would force the PM to seek a Brexit extension from Brussels beyond October 31.
Mr Johnson has solemnly vowed to take the UK out of the EU by Halloween with or without a deal.
Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg launched a vicious attack on the plotters today.
He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘They dare not use the confidence procedures because they know that Jeremy Corbyn is too unpopular, and therefore they seek deceitful ends by underhand means.’
Reports that any bid to extend Brexit to stop a no-deal exit would be treated as a no confidence issue, with supporting Tory MPs stopped from standing for the party, drew a harsh response from Mr Hammond.
The ex-chancellor tweeted: ‘If true, this would be staggeringly hypocritical: 8 members of the current cabinet have defied the party whip this year.
‘I want to honour our 2017 manifesto which promised a ‘smooth and orderly’ exit and a ‘deep and special partnership’ with the EU. Not an undemocratic No Deal.’
Mr Gauke also dismissed the threat.
‘Sometimes there is a point where… you have to judge between your own personal interests and the national interest,’ he said.
‘And the national interest has to come first.
‘But, I hope it doesn’t come to that, and I hope cooler and calmer heads will look at this and think that trying to split the Conservative Party in this way is not a sensible way forward for the Conservative Party, or indeed for the country.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘All options for party management are under consideration, but first and foremost the PM hopes MPs will deliver on the referendum result and back him on Parliament.’
Some 20 Tory former ministers are considering standing at the next election as independent Conservatives rather than back a no-deal option, the Sunday Times said.
David Gauke told Sky News today that he would be demanding to know how Mr Johnson proposed to get concessions from the EU, and whether there was even time left to ratify a deal if he gets one
Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated against Mr Johnson’s plans to suspend Parliament for up to five weeks ahead of the return of MPs from their summer recess.
Meanwhile, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has stoked tensions by insisting the hated Irish border backstop will not be scrapped from the Withdrawal Agreement.
Mr Johnson has made ditching the measures a pre-requisite for resuming talks, saying it is unacceptable.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Barnier insisted the backstop was an insurance policy to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, and represented the ‘maximum flexibility’ that Brussels can offer.
The comments came as controversy over the abrupt sacking of Chancellor Sajid Javid’s special adviser Sonia Khan by the PM’s key aide Dominic Cummings continued.
It is understood that the Chancellor was not informed of the dismissal beforehand and Ms Khan was escorted out of Downing Street by a police officer after being fired.
Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the House of Commons home affairs select committee, told The Observer: ‘Government advisers must not abuse their power by drawing the police into heavy- handed political stunts.
‘This needs to be reviewed by the cabinet secretary and the Metropolitan police straight away.’
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson said that Wednesday’s planned departmental funding announcement for 2020/2021 would see the ‘biggest, most generous spending review since the height of Tony Blair’s New Labour’.
How an explosive week in British politics could play out
The Brexit process reaches what could be a make-or-break stage this week as Boris Johnson and MPs engage in an extraordinary test of strength.
Tory rebels are hoping that by the end of the week they will have forced Mr Johnson to admit he must extend the October 31 deadline rather than try to leave without a deal.
But if they fail, the PM could emerge strengthened – and if they win there is mounting speculation he could opt to call an election rather than bow to their will.
MPs and peers will start massing at Westminster on the last day of the summer recess.
Remainers are likely to be putting the final touches to their plans for taking control of Commons business and passing legislation to block No Deal.
The government will be mobilising its forces to resist, in what promises to be an unprecedented clash between the executive and the House.
The Commons formally returns. Speaker John Bercow is likely to give his response from the chair to Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament in mid-September until October 14. He has already branded the idea a ‘constitutional outrage’.
Remainers are expected to table a request for an emergency debate under Standing Order 24. Mr Bercow is likely to approve the request, and bend procedural rules to allow them to use the time to table a business motion.
If the rebels win a crunch vote, they would be able to take control of the Commons order paper and pave the way for a short piece of legislation ordering the PM to seek a Brexit extension.
They could also add extra sitting days, with speculation the House might sit on Friday and through the weekend. There has not been a Saturday sitting since 1982, discussing the Falklands War.
Away from Westminster, a court in Edinburgh is set to consider a legal challenge to Mr Johnson’s proroguation plan.
Consideration of the Bill could start, potentially wiping out plans for the spending review to be presented and Mr Johnson’s first PMQs.
The Bill will need support from Tory rebels successfully to clear its Commons stages, but there appear to be more than enough willing to act to avoid No Deal.
On Thursday, the High Court in London is due to consider another judicial review of Mr Johnson’s proroguation plan, which could offer more drama.
Former PM John Major, Remain campaigner Gina Miller and Labour deputy leader Tom Watson are among those involved in the case claiming that Mr Johnson is acting beyond his powers to silence Parliament.
The Houses are not currently due to sit, but there is a fair chance rebels will try to speed the legislative process by working through the weekend.
The Lords looks set to present the biggest challenge to rebel hopes, with Eurosceptic peers threatening a huge fillibustering effort to stop the Bill going through.
If the law has not passed by the time the House prorogues – which could happen as early as Monday – it will be wiped out, leaving Remainers with little or no time to try again when Parliament returns in mid-October.
But if they manage to get a measure on the statute book ordering Mr Johnson to seek and accept an extension from the EU, he could opt to call an election rather than obey. October 24 is regarded by many as a possible polling day.