PM seeks to boost support for Brexit ambitions as Watson pushes referendum call

By Richard Wheeler, Gavin Cordon and Harriet Line, PA Political Staff

Boris Johnson has sought to shore up support for his Brexit ambitions, as Labour’s deputy leader prepared to call for a second referendum before any general election.

The Prime Minister held talks with the Conservatives’ key parliamentary allies the DUP, with leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds spending more than an hour inside Downing Street.

Mrs Foster said the Prime Minister demonstrated his “commitment to securing a deal which works for the entire United Kingdom” as well as the Republic of Ireland, including rejecting the idea of a Northern Ireland-only backstop – which would have created a special economic zone for the country.

The Conservatives have enjoyed the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs on many key issues since June 2017, although Theresa May was unable to convince them to vote for her Brexit deal.

The meeting came as Channel 4 reported the PM has asked Government officials to examine the feasibility of building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, an idea Mr Johnson has previously floated.

A Government spokesman said: “Government regularly commissions work to examine the feasibility of projects. During the leadership campaign candidates spoke about a number of issues which resulted in Number 10 commissions ahead of a new Prime Minister taking over.

“This PM has made no secret of his support for infrastructure projects that increase connectivity for people and particularly those that strengthen the Union.”

For Labour, deputy leader Tom Watson is expected to say a single-issue Brexit election may not break the deadlock in Parliament – something only a second referendum can achieve with certainty.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has outlined his desire for an election before a referendum.

Elsewhere, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer will appear at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Brighton on Wednesday and insist Labour will not be silenced in its bid to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal despite the suspension of Parliament.

A ComRes poll for the Daily Telegraph suggested 43% of voters believe the UK should leave without a deal on October 31 if the EU refuses to make any more concessions compared to 32% who disagree and 25% who answered “don’t know”.

But 46% agreed they are “fearful” of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit while 33% disagreed and 21% answered “don’t know”.

The poll was conducted between September 6 and 8, with 2,016 British adults surveyed.

Wednesday will also mark a deadline set by MPs for the Government to publish communications connected to prorogation and no-deal Brexit planning.

(PA Graphics)

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve’s demand for all written and electronic contact about the temporary suspension of Parliament and Operation Yellowhammer documents since July 23 to be released was approved by 311 votes to 302 on Monday.

He used the parliamentary device of a humble address to the Queen to ask for the documents to be put before the Commons by ministers by no later than 11pm on Wednesday.

Mr Grieve’s motion asked for all correspondence and communications, formal or informal, including WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook Messenger, private email accounts, text messages, iMessage and official and personal mobile phones connected to the present Government since July 23 relating to prorogation.

It lists key individuals of Mr Johnson’s Government, including senior adviser Dominic Cummings and director of legislative affairs Nikki da Costa.

The Government described the scope of the information requested as “disproportionate and unprecedented”, adding in a statement after the vote: “We will consider the implications of this vote and respond in due course.”