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“Unite to Remain” alliance set to take shape, junior Minister decries No Deal

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Credit: Unite to Remain. Source: YouTube.

9 August 2019 | UK NEWS

It has been reported today that pro-Remain parties are to begin formalising their alliance next week, with agreements set to be made between the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and (in Wales) Plaid Cymru. The Labour Party is understood not to be formally party to this alliance.

The movement, which is thought to be stimulated by Unite to Remain, an organisation set up by Heidi Allen MP (Independent), is set to meet this coming Thursday to agree which pro-Remain candidates should stand in 30 constituencies. The parties will agree not to stand against one another in these seats in order to maximise the chances of one of their supported candidates being elected.

We understand that the suffix of “(Unite to Remain)” will appear after each candidate’s name on the ballot paper and that this has already been agreed with the Electoral Commission. Current MPs who are already supportive of the alliance’s position are unlikely to be challenged, so the group is expected to be the most active in seats where MPs hostile to their position are incumbent. Jacob Rees-Mogg has been discussed as a high-profile incumbent to stand against, while Jeremy Corbyn may also find himself under attack, given the common perception within the alliance that he is pro-Leave.

Following next Thursday’s meeting, there will be another on the following Thursday during which a further 30 candidates are due to be selected. A final tranche of 40 are set to be thrashed out at a third and final meeting in the first week of September, once Parliament has returned from its summer recess. We understand that the alliance will consider itself to be on an election footing and ready to fight for its seats once this final selection has taken place.

Elsewhere today, speaking on the Commons People podcast by HuffPost UK, a junior Minister has become the first member of Boris Johnson’s Government (by our count) to speak out openly against a No Deal Brexit. George Freeman, Minister of State for Transport Technology and Innovation, told listeners that he thought a No Deal Brexit would be an “absolute disaster” and that proroguing Parliament in order to achieve it would be a “huge mistake”.

Mr Freeman further said: “Being able to use the legitimate threat of no-deal to get a good deal is a perfectly acceptable strategy. I do not agree with those very few hard-liners who think that WTO long-term would be satisfactory. I don’t at all, I think it would be an absolute disaster and politically for my party would see us out of office for two decades, I think.”

He added: “For me, what the Prime Minister has said he wants to do is get a sensible deal. Bear in mind we were very close to getting this deal through – a tweak to the backstop would do it.”

Given that Mr Johnson is said to have formed a Government with the express intention of surrounding himself with Ministers and junior staff who are able to support his mission statement of leaving the EU with or without a deal, “do or die” on October 31st, this news may come as a blow to the Prime Minister. At the time of writing, we have not heard of any retaliatory responses or summons from the PM’s office in respect of Mr Freeman’s remarks.

In the newspapers today, we read in The Guardian that Downing Street has cancelled all leave for Government advisers prior to October 31st tonight, hinting at the possibility of Number 10 preparing for an election.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph carries an exclusive story today describing how Buckingham Palace is in talks with Downing Street to ensure that the Queen does not become embroiled in a constitutional crisis over Brexit.

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