As prospect of election looms, British lawmakers begin no-deal Brexit battle
Lawmakers will decide on Tuesday whether to move Britain one step closer to an early election when they vote on the first stage of their plan to block Prime Minister Boris Johnson from pursuing a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson has staked his political future on taking Britain out of the European Union on October 31 with or without an agreement, putting him on a collision course with parliament, where a majority of lawmakers previously opposed leaving without a deal.
With less than 60 days to go, an alliance of opposition lawmakers and rebels in Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party will use parliament’s first day back from its summer break to launch their attempt to block a no-deal exit.
The group will put forward a vote on Tuesday on whether to seize control of the parliamentary agenda the following day to try to pass legislation that would force Johnson to seek a three-month delay to Britain’s EU exit.
Johnson raised the stakes on Monday, however, effectively turning it into a confidence vote by making it clear that if the government was defeated, it would hold a vote on Wednesday to approve an early election, most likely to be held on October 14.
“MPs (Members of Parliament) should vote with the government against (Labour leader Jeremy) Corbyn’s pointless delay,” Johnson said in a televised statement in front of his Downing Street office after meeting with his top team of ministers.
“I want everybody to know - there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay. We are leaving on the 31st of October, no ifs or buts.”
While the British leader said he did not want an election, a senior government source said lawmakers should be aware it would be a consequence of their decision to vote against the government on Tuesday.
Johnson has cast rebels as EU “collaborators” who are undermining the government’s negotiating hand in seeking a withdrawal agreement by blunting his threat of a no-deal Brexit.
The source said any Conservatives who voted against the government would have the whip removed, effectively expelling them from the party. Media have reported about 20 Conservative lawmakers were prepared to rebel. Names on the legislation put forward include former finance minister Philip Hammond.
In order to hold an election, the government would need the backing of two-thirds of lawmakers in the 650-seat House of Commons.
While Labour’s Corbyn has said he wants an election, some in his party are concerned about voting for one before a delay to Britain’s EU exit has been secured.
Corbyn will host a meeting of opposition parties on Tuesday morning to discuss their plans to block a no-deal, his spokesman said.
Johnson, whose Conservatives have seen an opinion poll bounce since he took office, has a working majority of just one seat in the 650-seat lower house of parliament and some suspect it has always been his strategy to head to the polls.
“The prime minister seems to be doing everything he can to bring about an election, while claiming it’s the last thing he wants,” said a source close to the group of Conservative lawmakers opposed to a no-deal exit.