Boris Johnson will “test to the limit” a law that forces him to try to delay Brexit to avoid no-deal, the foreign secretary has told Sky News.
Dominic Raab called the bill “lousy” and vowed to check “very carefully what it does and doesn’t require” but insisted the government would not break the law.
His remarks came after Amber Rudd quit the cabinet and accused the prime minister of an “act of political vandalism” over the decision to kick out 21 Tory MPs for their attempts to stop no-deal.
Labour’s shadow attorney general Baroness Shami Chakrabarti responded by comparing Downing Street’s actions to “the Joker in the Dark Knight” for trying to create “chaos”.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian alo intervened on Europe 1 radio to say the Brexit situation was “very worrying” and warned of a delay: “We are not going to do this every three months.”
Appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Raab dismissed a bill pushed through parliament this week after it was helped by Tory MPs who took control of its agenda and were subsequently expelled from the party.
The law, which is due to come into force when it receives Royal Assent on Monday, instructs the PM to ask Brussels to delay Brexit if no deal has been agreed by 19 October or MPs have not endorsed a no-deal divorce.
The foreign secretary said: “What we are going to do with that legislation is test very carefully what it does and doesn’t require.
“That’s not only the lawful thing to do it’s the responsible thing to do.
“We’re always going to behave lawfully as a government, and anyway it will be challenged in the courts.”
Mr Raab admitted it had been a “rough week” for the Conservatives after 21 MPs were booted out of the party and Mrs Rudd resigned as work and pensions secretary to sit in parliament as an independent.
He said he was “really sorry” to see the Hastings and Rye MP go, but insisted the prime minister was “right to restore some discipline and right to expect it from his top team”.
And turning Ms Rudd’s accusation of “political vandalism” back on her, Mr Raab said MPs taking control of the parliamentary agenda was “the real vandalism to democracy that’s going on”.
Labour’s Baroness Chakrabarti said Mr Raab’s were “irresponsible and elitist”.
She told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Every tin pot dictator on the planet throughout history has used the excuse of having the people on their side to break the law to shut down parliament and all the rest of it – it’s absolutely extraordinary and very un-British.
“Johnson and co are deliberately using breaking the law as a kind of dog whistle because they think it makes them look tough, but I just think it makes them look appalling.
“We will not allow them to use chaos theory and crash out without parliament being able to have its say.”
She added: “There are people in other opposition parties and people like the Conservative rebels who all share this approach that it would be thoroughly irresponsible to behave like the Joker in the Dark Knight and just go for chaos theory.
“I’m really worried that there are some people in Number 10 at the moment who literally believe in chaos and fear and polarisation on the streets in order to get their way and deliver a no-deal Brexit.”
Explaining her decision to quit the government, Ms Rudd told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I have not seen enough work going into actually trying to get a deal.
“When I asked Number 10 for a summary of what the plan was for actually getting a deal, I was sent a one-page summary.”
She has been replaced as work and pensions secretary by outgoing environment minister Therese Coffey.