Tory MPs who support attempts to block a no-deal Brexit will have the party whip withdrawn and barred from standing as Conservative candidates at the next general election.
The dramatic threat to effectively expel potential rebels from the party is being issued by Tory whips ahead of a critical week in parliament for Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans.
Withdrawing the whip would see MPs keep their seats in parliament but sit in the Commons as independent MPs.
The prime minister has promised the UK will leave the EU on 31 October – even if a Brexit deal cannot be agreed with Brussels ahead of the Halloween deadline.
However, MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit are expected to begin efforts on Tuesday – when parliament returns from its summer break – to force the prime minister to seek a further delay to Brexit in order to avoid a no-deal departure.
A cross-party alliance of opposition MPs – including Labour – has drafted a bill aimed at blocking no-deal and will likely look to seize control of the House of Commons agenda from the government in order to pass the legislation.
There are claimed to be “a dozen” Conservative MPs willing to rebel against the government and defy Mr Johnson in supporting the moves to stop a no-deal Brexit.
But, in a move likely to further inflame tensions within his party, Mr Johnson ordered the threat of punishments to those thinking of rebelling.
It followed a meeting with Conservative whips over Sunday lunch at his Chequers country retreat.
Tory MPs are being warned that blocking the possibility of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October will harm Mr Johnson’s chances of securing an altered withdrawal agreement with Brussels ahead of a key EU summit on 17 October.
A senior source from the whips’ office said: “The whips are telling Conservative MPs today a very simple message – if they fail to vote with the government on Tuesday they will be destroying the government’s negotiating position and handing control of parliament to [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn.
“Any Conservative MP who does this will have the whip withdrawn and will not stand as Conservative candidates in an election.
“There is a chance of a deal on October 17 only because Brussels realises the prime minister is totally committed to leaving on October 31.
“All MPs face a simple choice on Tuesday: to vote with the government and preserve the chance of a deal or vote with Corbyn and destroy any chance of a deal.”
One of the leading Conservative opponents of a no-deal Brexit on Sunday dismissed threats he could have the Tory whip withdrawn if he sides with Labour in the Commons.
Former justice secretary David Gauke, part of the so-called “Gaukeward squad” of ex-Tory ministers, told Sky News the “national interest” would trump his “personal interest”.
On the eve of MPs’ return to Westminster, Mr Corbyn will chair a meeting of his shadow cabinet to finalise their plans to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
In a speech in Salford on Monday, the Labour leader will say: “We are working with other parties to do everything necessary to pull our country back from the brink.
“Like all progressive change, democracy was won from below it wasn’t handed down from above.
“So when a prime minister who hasn’t won an election and who doesn’t have a majority decrees that parliament will be shut down – because he knows his plan for a disastrous no deal doesn’t have the votes – we say that is an attack on democracy which will be resisted.
“The people will not allow a phoney populist cabal in Downing Street, in hock to the vested interests of the richest, to deny them their democratic voice.”
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Mr Corbyn, whose party now backs a second EU referendum in all circumstances, will add: “The battle to stop no deal isn’t a struggle between those who want to leave the EU and those who want continued membership.
“It’s a battle of the many against the few who are hijacking the referendum result to shift even more power and wealth towards those at the top.”
Former prime minister Tony Blair will urge Labour not to support any push by Downing Street for an early general election, but demand a Brexit referendum instead.
In a speech in London later, Mr Blair will say: “Should the government seek an election, it should be refused in favour of a referendum.
“It is counter-intuitive for opposition parties to refuse an election. But in this exceptional case, it is vital they do so as a matter of principle, until Brexit is resolved.”
Meanwhile, former prime minister Gordon Brown has backed calls by the GMB union, Hope Not Hate campaign group and food charity Sustain to demand Mr Johnson spell out the potential risks of a no-deal Brexit to the UK’s food supply.
He said: “Imports of almost a third of our food could be subject to disruption. Uncertainty, restricted supplies and a weakened pound could raise prices.
“This would be a catastrophe for the food industry but also for family budgets, hospitals and those driven to food banks due to the decimation of our social security system over the last decade.”
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