Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser has rejected claims from a Tory MP that he is arrogant about the constitution.
Dominic Cummings, the former Vote Leave mastermind hired by the prime minister, refused to enter into a war of words with Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general who has vowed to block a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Cummings told Sky News that preparations for leaving the EU on 31 October without a withdrawal agreement were going “great”.
And he added in his first public comments since joining Number 10 that the “simple thing” was “politicians don’t get to choose which votes they respect”.
Mr Grieve had attacked Mr Cummings’ “characteristic arrogance and ignorance” yesterday for reportedly telling MPs it was too late to stop no-deal in less than 90 days’ time.
According to The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Johnson’s top aide said if the prime minister lost a no-confidence vote when parliament returns from its summer break he could simply schedule an election for after Halloween.
“The fixed Term Parliament Act doesn’t necessarily mean that if there is a no-confidence vote it leads inevitably to a general election at all,” Mr Grieve told Sky News on Tuesday.
“It leads to a 14-day period in which a new administration can be formed.
“And there’s nothing that the current prime minister could do to prevent such an administration being formed if a majority of the House of Commons wanted it.”
Responding, Mr Cummings told Sky News on his way into work on Wednesday: “I don’t think I am arrogant. I don’t know very much about very much.
“Mr Grieve will see what he’s right about.”
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a Tory former foreign secretary, warned Mr Cummings speaking out in public as an unelected official risked “weakening the authority of the government”.
He called him an “extremely bright, extremely intelligent chap”, but told Sky News the prime minister should “slap down” Mr Cummings “and his ilk” for trying to force through no-deal without the consent of parliament or the public, through an election or referendum.
Mr Johnson has pledged to ensure Brexit happens on 31 October “do or die”.
Yesterday, Michael Gove, the minister in charge of coordinating Whitehall preparations for no-deal, accused the EU of being “wrong and sad” for “refusing to negotiate” a new Brexit deal.
Brussels has said it will not re-open talks on the nearly 600-page divorce treaty agreed with the previous prime minister Theresa May in November.
However it has offered new negotiations on the non-binding guidelines for future trade talks.