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With 78 days to Brexit, British parliament ready to take on PM

LONDON (Reuters) – The British parliament is set for a September showdown between Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “do or die” pro-Brexit government and those implacably opposed to leaving the European Union without a divorce deal.

FILE PHOTO: The British union flag and the EU flag are seen flying near the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Johnson says Britain will leave the EU with or without a deal on Oct. 31 and is refusing to negotiate with Brussels until it agrees to change the Withdrawal Agreement, the deal it negotiated with his predecessor Theresa May. Brussels says it won’t renegotiate.

The impasse leaves Britain on course for a no-deal exit unless parliament can stop it.

On Wednesday, former finance minister Philip Hammond accused Johnson of deliberately wrecking negotiations and saying parliament has the power to block a no-deal exit.

“There is no popular mandate for a no-deal Brexit and no parliamentary mandate for one either,” he wrote in the Times. “The hardliners may make the most noise but they are not the most numerous.”

Johnson’s office declined to comment on the record, but unnamed sources in his team accused Hammond of failing to prepare the country properly when he was finance minister and having a secret agenda to halt Brexit.

Several ministers criticised Hammond’s comments.

Hammond hit back, saying on Twitter he wanted to deliver Brexit, but not without a divorce deal to smooth the transition and protect the economy.

The spat shows a change in leadership over the summer has done nothing to heal the divisions that felled May, raising the chances of a full-blown constitutional crisis

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