A NORTH-EAST MP and Boris Johnson supporter has insisted the Prime Minister did not lie to the Queen as he dismissed concerns about the Government's no-deal Brexit planning.

Simon Clarke, Middlesbrough South and east Cleveland MP, said the prorogation of parliament was a "perfectly normal thing to do" before party conference season and a Queen's speech, and described Operation Yellowhammer, the name for the government's contingency plan to prepare for leaving the EU without a deal, as not a forecast but a "worst case scenario".

The Northern Echo:

The Exchequer Secretary was speaking on a visit to Middlesbrough with the town's mayor Andy Preston to discuss plans to boost jobs and economic growth, following the government’s new £3.6bn Towns Fund.

It was announced last week, as part of the fund, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Thornaby and Redcar will benefit from up to £125m of government money to help develop innovative regeneration plans.

Speaking exclusively to The Northern Echo, Mr Clarke denied any suggestions that Boris Johnson had lied to the monarch or the country, and insisted the Prime Minister still had his full support.

He said: "He didn’t lie to the Queen, I think we will see in court that point will be made very clearly to the Government.

"Prorogation is a perfectly normal procedure and it always happens before a Queen’s Speech. There has been an awful lot of noise made about this but conference recess happens every single year.

"We’ve got the Liberal Democrat conference next week, then the Labour conference the week after that, and the Conservative one after that. No one suggests we sit through that time anyway, so we’ve probably only lost about four or five sitting days anyway."

In dismissing concerns surrounding Operation Yellowhammer, Mr Clarke said he still believed the government could secure a deal with the EU before October 31, but said Parliament 'hacking away at our negotiating leverage" wasn't helping.

"The important thing to get across about Yellowhammer is it is not an actual forecast, it is absolutely a worst case scenario exercise. It is the responsible thing for the Government to do to look at what is the absolute worst thing that could happen in a no-deal scenario but it is not an estimate, and clearly our focus is on getting a deal.

"We want to get a deal, which is why it is so frustrating that parliament keeps hacking away at our negotiating leverage and trying to rule no-deal out as it is the only way we can persuade the Europeans to change their stance.

"We all want a deal and there is still a good chance we can get one on October 17 but Parliament isn’t helping."

The Northern Echo:

Mr Clarke also said it was "frustrating" that a general election would not be taking place before October 31 to break the deadlock in the House of Commons.

"I’m really frustrated - we’ve offered the opposition twice in a week the chance to have a general election and for the first time ever the opposition have actually declined the offer of a general election, I think that speaks volumes about their confidence in how they would do in that general election.

"We’ve offered it reluctantly because quite frankly nobody wants an election at this point but we have to break the deadlock in Parliament.

"Parliament has been far too busy trying to stop Brexit rather than try and see it done, so I am frustrated, and I think people will draw their own conclusions about what it means for Labour’s confidence in areas like Teesside. All we can do is press on and leave on October 31."

Discussing the future of Middlesbrough town centre, he said: "The Government’s focus is on stuff that unlocks jobs, growth and better transport – they are the things that drive economic improvement. Clearly we want the money to be spent on things that provide value to the tax payers.

"We want to transform people’s perception of Middlesbrough town centre and what it can offer because at the moment the town is a doughnut – people go out and the town centre has progressively declined and that has got to end.

“Having two of the five treasury ministers from our area must make a big difference ensuring our voice is heard at the top table. Both Rishi and I are passionate about the Northern Powerhouse.

"I hope with this £3.6bn town fund it actually makes a huge difference, and what we heard last week is £125m for five towns in the Tees Valley. That is huge levels of investment as is transformative.

"There’s no question that retail is changing and anyone who has seen the big Amazon warehouse on the outskirts of Darlington – that is a living embodiment of how much our shopping habits are changing.

“The future probably is fewer shops but giving people reason to come in whether that be food, cinema, public meeting points - that’s really what the emphasis is on, and about retail that you can’t replicate online.

"It’s about being clever, I suspect over time we’ll also see more homes, so we’re not just having empty shops, because nothing is more destructive than that."