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19th Jan 2020

Johnson plans UK snap election again, minister says

  • The House of Commons was back at work after the Supreme Court ruled that suspending it was unlawful (Photo: House of Commons)

The British government is planning to call for a snap election once again, attorney general Geoffrey Cox told MPs on Wednesday (25 September) as parliament reconvened in Westminster.

The parliamentary debate started as prime minister Boris Johnson flew back from the United National general assembly in New York into a deepening political and constitutional crisis in London.

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Britain's Supreme Court handed down an unprecedented legal rebuke to Johnson on Tuesday, ruling that he broke the law by suspending parliament.

In the debate, Cox made repeated references to amending the law on scheduling elections.

Johnson has previously twice failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to hold a snap election, but legislation could force the dissolution of the parliament before the UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October.

Opposition Labour's priority, however, is avoiding the UK leaving the bloc without any divorce deal.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Wednesday that it would be "appropriate" to trigger a vote of no confidence in Johnson but only when the threat of a no-deal Brexit has been averted.

Cox told MPs the government would respect a law passed in September that forces Johnson to ask for a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline from the EU, if there is no agreement in sight by 19 October.

But Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said her party was trying to bring forward legislation that would make Johnson to go to Brussels sooner to ask for a Brexit delay so the threat of no-deal dissipated "more quickly".

Cox, in his answers to MPs, pitted the electorate against the parliament and accused MPs of wanting to reverse Brexit.

"This parliament should have the courage to face the electorate. But it won't, because so many of them are really all about preventing us leaving the European Union at all. But the time is coming when even these turkeys won't be able to prevent Christmas," he said.

"This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit. It has no moral right to sit on these green benches," Cox said.

Political scrutiny

Cox also suggested that it would make sense for appointments to the Supreme Court to be approved by parliament, although he added that he would not be "enthusiastic" about it.

Pro-Brexit Conservatives and Brexit party members claimed that the Supreme Court's decision annulling the parliament's suspension was "politicised".

Brexit party MEP Annunziata Rees-Mogg asked on Tuesday if the Supreme Courted judges supported remaining in the EU and said on Twitter that they should be open to political scrutiny.

Her brother, Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, reportedly described the court ruling as a "constitutional coup".

One week

In the meantime, Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar warned the UK that it must table written proposals to solve the Irish border issue within the next week in order to clinch a deal at the EU summit on 17-18 October.

While previous British prime ministers, including David Cameron and Theresa May, had thought that they could negotiate deals with fellow EU leaders at two-day summits, EU diplomats need to prepare positions and agreements days before the meeting starts.

"We have working methods and I know that [EU council president] Tusk and other EU heads of government would like to see British proposals in writing really in the first week of October, otherwise it is very hard to see how we could agree on something at the summit in the middle of October," Varadkar said in New York.

Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he is not emotionally attached to the Irish backstop, but workable solutions are required to keep the peace on the island.

Johnson flies home from NY early after UK court verdict

Prime minister Boris Johnson to fly back from UN meeting in New York a day early, after the UK supreme court ruled that the suspension of parliament was unlawful - and all major opposition parties call for Johnson's resignation.

Johnson attacks court and MPs as he pushes for election

British prime minister Boris Johnson called on the opposition to either stop trying to prevent the government going for a no-deal Brexit, or call for an election. He also declared the Supreme Court's ruling was wrong.

Johnson finally unveils UK's Brexit border 'compromise'

British PM Boris Johnson proposes regulatory alignment between the EU and Northern Ireland to avoid most of the checks at the border, but wants the province to leave the EU's customs union when the UK does.

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