Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Johnson defeated as MPs push anti no-deal Brexit bill

  • Johnson will still push for early elections after the no-deal bill passes both houses of parliament (Photo: Number 10)

British prime minister Boris Johnson suffered defeats on Wednesday (4 September) in the UK parliament as MPs blocked his first bid to trigger a snap election for October and legislators managed to clear the way for a bill blocking any no-deal Brexit.

On Thursday early morning, the government agreed that the bill to stop no-deal Brexit could complete its passage through the House of Lords on Friday after it has already been mostly cleared by the House of Commons, which could have a final vote on it on Monday.

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The parliament then will be suspended later next week until mid-October.

The breakthrough on the bill came after Conservative rebels held talks with opposition Labour.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier said his party required the no-deal Brexit bill to gain royal assent, pass through all the legislative stages before it would consider backing Johnson's call for a general election.

During a dramatic day in the British parliament, Johnson then failed to get the necessary two-thirds of the MPs to support a snap general election.

It prompted Johnson to call Corbyn "the first leader of the opposition in the democratic history of our country to refuse the invitation to an election".

During a bad-tempered debate in the parliament, Johnson was caught yelling at the opposition leader: "Call an election, you great big girl's blouse" to the Labour leader.

Corbyn in response told MPs that Labour wants an election, but that Johnson's proposal for a 15 October poll was "a bit like the offer of an apple to Snow White by the wicked queen".

The no-deal Brexit bill, supported by 21 rebel Conservatives and opposition MPs, states that Johnson has until 19 October to either pass a divorce agreement in parliament or get MPs to approve a no-deal Brexit.

Once this deadline has passed, the prime minister will have to request an extension from the EU to the UK's departure date to 31 January 2020.

If the EU proposes a different date, the premier will have two days to accept that proposal. During that period, MPs will have the opportunity to reject that date.

The EU-27 leaders, who will next meet in Brussels on 17 October, want to avoid being blamed for a no-deal Brexit, and will be expected to grant another extension to the deadline, but with conditions.

The EU-27 will have to decide unanimously.

Johnson promised to take the UK out of the EU by the end of October "no ifs, not buts", and refused earlier calls for requesting an extension, arguing it will weaken the UK's negotiating position in Brussels.

However, UK negotiator David Frost has failed to put substantive proposals on the table during his meeting with EU officials on Wednesday to amend the withdrawal agreement.

Meanwhile, there is a growing backlash in Johnson's Conservative party as the 21 rebel MPs, including former chancellor Philip Hammond and Winston Churchill's grandson Nicholas Soames, were expelled from the party for supporting the no-deal Brexit bill.

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