Sun | Dec 15, 2019

Former Conservative minister urges country to reject the party

Published:Thursday | November 14, 2019 | 12:26 AM
Britain’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson raises a pint of beer as he meets with military veterans at the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton, England, on Monday, November 11, as part of the general election campaign trail. Britain goes to the polls on December 12.
Britain’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson raises a pint of beer as he meets with military veterans at the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton, England, on Monday, November 11, as part of the general election campaign trail. Britain goes to the polls on December 12.

LONDON (AP):

A former Conservative Party Cabinet minister said Wednesday that giving the party a majority in next month’s election would be “disastrous’’ for the UK, in the latest example of how the Brexit debate has shattered traditional party alliances in this deeply divided country.

David Gauke, who served as justice secretary until July, said an outright victory for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party would likely result in Britain leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement, ensuring unfettered trade with the bloc.

“A Conservative majority after the next general election will take us in the direction of a very hard Brexit and in all likelihood at the end of 2020, we will leave the implementation period without a deal with the EU ... in effect, on no-deal terms,’’ Gauke told the BBC. “And that, I believe, would be disastrous for the prosperity of this country, whole sectors would become unviable.”

The comments underscore the upheaval under way in British politics, triggered largely by differing views on how and whether Britain should leave the EU. Many traditional Conservative voters, once attracted by the party’s business-friendly policies and fiscal restraint, now oppose its focus on severing ties with the EU.

Johnson used a speech at a car plant to urge voters to back his party or face a “delay and dither” coalition that would be led by the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn and the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon, who would push for a fresh referendum on Scottish independence that he opposes.

The prime minister said there is a “pent-up tidal wave” of tens of billions of dollars of investment ready to come into Britain if the uncertainty over Brexit can be lifted.

The Labour Party is also split over Brexit, as well as by Corbyn’s left-wing policies.

Last week, a former member of Labour’s inner circle took the extraordinary step of urging voters to support Johnson. Ian Austin, an aide to Gordon Brown, the party’s last prime minister, said Labour had been poisoned by “anti-Jewish racism” under Corbyn.

Those splits are providing an opening for smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Greens, who have united behind the goal of stopping Brexit. On the other side of the divide is the newly formed Brexit Party, which seeks to ensure Britain leaves the bloc as soon as possible. The Brexit Party this week said it wouldn’t run candidates in constituencies now held by the Conservatives, after Johnson promised Britain would leave the EU by the end of 2020. Britain goes to the polls on December 12.