Labour's McDonnell says UK in disarray but parliament will block no-deal Brexit

Britain's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters London, UK Nov 21, 2018, 03.20 PM (IST)

British Prime Minister Theresa May's government is in disarray over Brexit but there is no majority in parliament for damaging the economy by leaving the EU without a deal, the opposition Labour Party's finance minister-in-waiting said on Wednesday.

"We just can't go on like this," Labour finance chief John McDonnell, 67, said in a speech at Reuters in London. "We just cannot go on with this instability, uncertainty that there is in government, day by day and sometimes hour by hour."

Since striking a deal with the EU last week, May has faced the most perilous crisis of her premiership with several ministers resigning, including her Brexit minister.

May has pledged to fight on, warning that toppling her risks delaying Britain's exit from the EU or leaving without a deal, a step that could thrust the world's fifth largest economy into the unknown.

McDonnell said there was not a majority in parliament for either May's deal or for leaving the European Union without a deal.

"I think an overwhelming majority oppose anything that smacks of being no deal," he said. He said the future was deeply uncertain with options including national election or parliamentary deadlock.

"Then we could be into a situation of a war of attrition within parliament of amendments to legislation taking place and uncertainty continuing," he said.

More than two years after the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, it is still unclear how, on what terms or even if it will leave as planned on March 29, 2019.

When asked if he was a Marxist or a capitalist, McDonnell said he was a socialist but that Marx was one of the best analysts of how capitalism actually works.

"I'm a socialist. I'm trying to rehabilitate the reading of [Das] Kapital," he said, giving an overview of the Labour Party's socialist intellectual roots. "But you have to insert Marx into that as well because I think it's one of the best analyses of how capitalism works."

Asked about how many Labour lawmakers might rebel and vote for May's deal, he indicated none would.

"I think we'll hold our side now. I really do, and we have done on the votes this week," he said.

Story highlights

Since striking a deal with the EU last week, May has faced the most perilous crisis of her premiership with several ministers resigning, including her Brexit minister.