Lord Hague stated yesterday the Government could “collapse” and an “impasse” could develop ahead of our scheduled departure from the European Union in March next year.
Writing in The Telegraph, he said: “Complete with an atmosphere of intense recrimination and abuse, it would be no exaggeration to say that this would be the most serious constitutional crisis for at least a century, and possibly two.”
The EU Withdrawal Act states that a Brexit agreement can only take effect if approved by the House of Commons, but the Prime Minister may struggle to gain sufficient support from her fellow MPs.
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker has said at least 80 Tory MPs will vote against a Chequers deal with the EU.
In contrast, fellow Conservative Nick Boles has said a minimum of 40 conservative MPs would vote against a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
If 80 anti-Chequers MPs were to vote against the deal, the Government would require 70 Labour MPs to vote alongside them – the chances of this happening Lord Hague describes as “virtually zero”.
This would mean the deal with the EU, which has been “painstakingly assembled”, would likely be defeated in the Commons.
Lord Hague suggests that if the Government decides to plough on with a ‘no-deal’ Brexit in the event the Chequers deal is defeated, this could also falter.
He said: “Now the other Tories who know what they are against kick in – they are against leaving with no deal.
“Imagine they put down an amendment to defer the date of Brexit by six months and hold a second referendum on what to do next.
“Jeremy Corbyn agonises about what to do, but under pressure from the trade unions and activists seeing a chance to upset the whole political system, decides Labour will vote for the amendment.”
However, the Act also states that regulation would have to be passed in order to change the departure date.
Yet this can only be initiated by a minister and only the Government can opt to hold a referendum.
This would leave the Government and Parliament at an absolute standstill – not only would the Government be unable to pass a Brexit deal, but it would also lack the ability to pass laws necessary to leave without a deal.
Meanwhile, Parliament can only do what it wants with the cooperation of ministers.
Lord Hague suggests that this outcome could lead to MPs appealing to the Supreme Court or even to the Monarchy to intervene.
Another general election could ensue, either by a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, or as a result of Mrs May accepting defeat and calling an election herself.
This would be the third general election in under four years – not to mention the two important referendums and the multiple changes in leadership within the parties.
The former Foreign Minister said: “Either we leave the EU accompanied by unremitting domestic chaos, or we stay in it despite the clear result of the vote in 2016.
“Either eventuality would cause grievous harm to the country, its international reputation, our economy and standing of our politics.”
However, the Tory peer did say that he believes this potential outcome for the UK could be avoided.
His comments come at the same time that Brexiteers including Boris Johnson are facing criticism for failing to put forward alternatives to Chequers.