Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Johnson threatens rebel Tory MPs with snap election

A showdown looms between British prime minister Boris Johnson and legislators over Brexit on Tuesday (3 September).

MPs are hoping to push through a bill forcing Johnson to ask the EU for a delay if there is no divorce deal by mid-October - and the premier is using the threat of a possible snap general elections to stop their plot.

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Johnson on Monday implicitly warned lawmakers that he would seek an election before 14 October if they tied his hands, ruling out asking for any further extension to the Brexit deadline set for 31 October.

Rebel Tory MPs and opposition legislators will put forward a bill to block a no-deal Brexit and force Johnson to ask Brussels for an extension until 31 January 2020, if the premier has not passed a new Brexit agreement by 19 October, a day after the key summit of EU leaders in Brussels ends.

With less than 60 days to go before no-deal Brexit, many MPs are concerned that leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement would be devastating for the UK economy.

Rebel lawmakers will seek on Tuesday to take control of parliamentary time on Wednesday to pass the bill to force Johnson's hand.

The prime minister's team hopes the threat is enough to dissuade sufficient number of Conservative MPs to back down, fearing Labour might win a snap election.

The PM has cast rebel MPs as EU "collaborators" who are undermining the government's negotiating hand in seeking a withdrawal agreement.

"I want everybody to know there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay," Johnson told press outside of Downing street 10 on Monday.

"We're leaving on 31 October, no ifs or buts. We will not accept any attempt to go back on our promises or to scrub that referendum."

"I don't want an election. You don't want an election," he said, hinting that there might be one if parliament does not back down.

He added that the backbench bill would "chop the legs out" from the UK's Brexit negotiators.

Negotiator David Frost will be in Brussels this week, but talks are not moving anywhere.

The UK wants to scrap the so-called backstop in the withdrawal agreement, which would keep the UK in the EU's customs union and parts of the single market to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, if another solution is not found within two years.

The EU has said it will willing to look at any concrete, workable alternatives the UK puts forward, but London has not submitted any specific plans.

Extension to the extension

Two-thirds of lawmakers must support holding an early election, which is otherwise not scheduled until 2022, and Johnson is not certain to get enough votes.

Johnson has been working with a majority of only one seat in the 650-seat lower house of parliament.

The rebels' bill is signed by, among others, former chancellor Philip Hammond, and ex-justice secretary David Gauke, and Labour MP Hilary Benn tabled the final version of the bill aimed at stopping a no-deal Brexit.

The bill says an extension until 31 January 2020 must be sought if the prime minister has not passed a new Brexit agreement by 19 October, unless legislators approve no-deal Brexit.

The bill also adds that Johnson must accept any alternative extension offered by the EU, although that must be put to a vote in parliament too.

If both sides agree on a deal after 19 October but before 31 January, Brexit could happen sooner, it adds.

Johnson's team sees the bill as practically a vote of no-confidence in the premier.

On Monday evening, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told his supporters that the party was ready for an election.

Johnson has already moved last week to silence parliament on Brexit as he suspended the House of Commons until 14 October from mid-September, giving less time to MPs to act.

Johnson's call for new Brexit deal hits EU 'no'

The UK will not nominate a new EU commissioner, the new British PM said in his first address to parliament, and insisted that the Irish backstop can be renegotiated - without giving any specifics on alternative solutions.

UK: light goes out in House of Commons

British MPs again rejected Boris Johnson's call for an early election, as the parliament began its five-week suspension period. The prime minister said he would refuse to ask for a Brexit delay - despite the law demanding it.

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Opinion

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

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