Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking outside 10 Downing Street yesterday Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images
Snap Election

Boris Johnson to seek 14 October general election if MPs vote to block no-deal Brexit today

Johnson met with ministers and ruled out another Brexit extension last night.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson will seek to dissolve parliament and call a general election for 14 October if MPs pass a vote that would prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Conservative Party rebels are preparing to join with opposition MPs today and vote for a bill that will try to force Johnson to delay Britain’s departure from the European Union if he cannot strike an agreement with Brussels in the next few weeks.

The bill, tabled by Labour MP Hilary Benn, will also seek to prevent a no-deal Brexit by requiring parliament’s consent to leave without a deal.

A senior official said that if the government loses the vote, Johnson would table a parliamentary vote tomorrow aimed at holding an early election.

“The prime minister doesn’t want an election but that will be up to MPs when they choose to vote [today],” the official said.

Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the motion to call an early election would have to pass by a two-thirds majority, but the Labour Party has already indicated that it would vote in favour of such an outcome.

An election would take place on 14 October to allow a new government to be in place before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU just over two weeks later.

Last night, Johnson said he did not want an election and expressed hope that he could get a new deal with Brussels.

But he added that he would stick to the intended Brexit deadline of 31 October.

“We are leaving on 31 October, no ifs or buts,” he said in a defiant statement outside his office at 10 Downing Street.

Chances of deal ‘rising’

Today’s bill will seek to force the UK government to extend the Brexit deadline and seek a new agreement with the EU.

A cross-party group of MPs is seeking to change the law to potentially delay Brexit until 31 January next year.

They fear that leaving the EU with no deal could cause huge economic disruption.

But when Johnson took office in July, he promised to deliver the 2016 referendum vote for Brexit whatever the circumstances, and after talks with his top ministers yesterday evening, he made it clear that he would not move on this.

He claimed that the chances of striking a divorce deal with Brussels “have been rising” ahead of a summit of EU leaders on 17-18 October, adding that this was partly because the bloc understood he would walk away without a deal if he had to.

“I want everybody to know: there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay,” he said.

“Armed and fortified with that conviction I believe we will get a deal at that crucial summit in October.”

Last chance

Johnson has repeatedly called on the EU to renegotiate the deal but it has so far refused, prompting both sides to ramp up preparations for a disorderly Brexit.

Many MPs are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, but they have only a few days to act.

The House of Commons returns today, and Johnson has controversially decided to suspend parliament next week for more than a month.

“We must come together to stop no-deal,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a speech yesterday, warning: “This week could be our last chance.”

Last week, a Scottish court ruled against an attempt by campaigners to obtain an interim order – the country’s legal equivalent of an injunction – against Johnson’s prorogation of parliament, but a final hearing on their attempt will be heard today.

This afternoon, a cross-party group of MPs will seek to take control of the parliamentary timetable in order to allocate time on Wednesday to debate their draft law blocking a no-deal Brexit.

Their bill says that if MPs have not approved an EU deal or endorsed a no-deal scenario by 19 October – the day after the EU summit – then Johnson must seek a delay to Brexit.

However, the coalition behind the plan is divided.

Corbyn said that if the legislative efforts failed, Labour could back a vote of no-confidence in Johnson’s government, which could trigger a general election.

With reporting from - © AFP 2019

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