Wednesday

8th Apr 2020

Johnson pushes for December election, puts aside Brexit bill

  • British PM Boris Johnson is set for an election campaign

British prime minister Boris Johnson will continue to push for an early December election on Tuesday (29 October).

In an effort to secure the support from the smaller Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party for an election before Christmas, Johnson will abandon attempts to get his Brexit bill through parliament.

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Pro-EU LibDems and the SNP have been arguing for a snap election on 9 December - to ensure there is not enough time for parliament to pass the Brexit bill before it dissolves - while Johnson has been pushing for an election on 12 December.

Both these opposition parties want to reverse Brexit, and have had an increase of support in the opinion polls.

On Tuesday, Johnson will publish a bill proposing the 12 December date which would only need a simple majority to succeed, unlike the two-thirds majority of MPs required in previous attempts, when he failed.

He would still need the backing of smaller parties such as Lib Dems and SNP.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would study the bill calling for an early election but said that a no-deal Brexit has to be ruled out first.

The Lib Dems are also sceptical, with party leader Jo Swinson telling MPs she did not trust Johnson's assurances.

Johnson's government argued that it needs the 12 December date in order to pass Northern Ireland's budget legislation.

The premier also said that parliament was "dysfunctional".

"We will not allow this paralysis to continue, and one way or another we must proceed straight to an election," Johnson told MPs.

Last week it appeared that Johnson had enough votes backing the withdrawal agreement, but there was not enough support for the fast-paced timeline with which he wanted MPs to ratify the bill implementing the withdrawal agreement.

Johnson seems to be taking a risk if he now goes ahead with a snap election without Brexit.

Conservatives are ahead in the polls, but Nigel Farage's Brexit party is expected to exploit Johnson's failure to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October as he promised, "do or die".

'Flextension'

All this comes after Johnson secured an extension on Monday by the remaining EU-27 countries to the existing 31 October Brexit deadline.

The UK will remain an EU member until 31 January 2020, but it can leave on the first day of any months until then if in the meantime the withdrawal agreement is ratified in both Westminster and the European parliament.

The UK will also have to send a new commissioner to the incoming EU executive, led by Ursula von der Leyen.

Britain will need to refrain from preventing the 27 EU countries from going ahead with legislation of their own, particularly on negations on the long-term EU budget.

Johnson has sent a letter to the EU on Monday confirming the extension which he blamed on parliament saying it was "unwanted".

He said he hoped the EU would insist that this would be the last extension, but member states are unlikely to commit to that.

Johnson earlier promised he would rather "die in a ditch" than delay Brexit beyond 31 October.

The EU parliament 's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted he was "relieved that finally no one died in a ditch".

"Whether the UK's democratic choice is revoke or an orderly withdraw, confirmed or not in a second referendum, the uncertainty of Brexit has gone on for far too long. This extra time must deliver a way forward," Verhofstadt added.

Brexit impasse, as UK and EU refuse to move first

Britain's main opposition party wants the EU to decide on a Brexit extension before agreeing to UK elections, but France wants to see what happens on the British vote first.

MPs vote on Johnson's latest push for Brexit deal

The EU parliament is awaiting the decision of British MPs on the Brexit deal before holding a vote by MEPs, as British PM Boris Johnson puts the Brexit deal to another vote on Tuesday.

EU sighs relief after 'decisive' Johnson victory in UK

The remaining 27 EU countries also told the UK to quickly ratify the withdrawal agreement, and start negotiations on future trade. The EU is keen to protect its own interests and prevent unfair competition from Britain.

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