Saturday

26th Nov 2022

Johnson attacks court and MPs as he pushes for election

A belligerent British prime minister Boris Johnson went on the attack on Wednesday night (26 September) in a heated debate in the House of Commons.

Johnson criticised the Supreme Court's decision that on Tuesday found him breaking the law by suspending parliament in the run-up to the UK's exit from the EU on 31 October.

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Johnson, after returning early from the UN general assembly's meeting in New York, refused to resign or apologise following the court decision and challenged the opposition to trigger an election through a no-confidence vote.

"The court was wrong to pronounce on what was essentially a political question at a time of great national controversy," he said.

The unrepentant premier attacked the opposition and accused them of cowardice for rejecting twice his earlier efforts to push for an election.

"This parliament must either stand aside and let this government get Brexit done or bring a vote of confidence and finally face a day of reckoning with the voters," he told MPs.

"Instead of facing the voters the opposition turned tail and fled from an election. Instead of deciding to let the voters decide, they ran for the courts," Johnson said, counting on the government's rhetoric of pitting people against the parliament.

Opposition Labour earlier said their priority is to rule out a no-deal Brexit next month before they would agree to a snap election.

Johnson has repeatedly called the law passed by MPs earlier this month forcing him to ask the EU for a delay to the Brexit deadline if no divorce deal is agreed by 19 October, "surrender bill".

He told MPs that he would not seek an extension to Brexit, despite the law.

Johnson later said in an interview that the EU was moving on the issue of the backstop, designed to prevent a hard border the island of Ireland.

But EU officials have repeatedly said that the UK needs to submit concrete and viable alternative proposals, which recent documents the UK have passed on to Brussels lacked.

EU leaders, meeting on 17-18 October in Brussels, meanwhile would also be looking for guarantees from Johnson that he actually has enough votes in parliament to support any withdrawal agreement, if they were to reach a deal with the British premier.

Johnson, however, does not command a majority in parliament, and does not have enough votes to support the current divorce deal. He also cannot call an election on his own, unless his government changes the law.

Brexit remained deadlocked, and the bitter debate in parliament on Wednesday night only deepened the trenches.

'Humbug'

Johnson caused outrage as he dismissed calls from MPs to tone down the rhetoric of "traitors" and "surrender", when referring to his political opponents.

Labour MP Paula Sherriff said such language is dangerous, incited violence and death threats against lawmakers.

She recalled the memory of Jo Cox, the pro-Remain Labour MP murdered by a far-right extremist during the 2016 Brexit referendum.

"I have never heard so much humbug in all my life", Johnson replied, triggering cries of "shame" in the House of Commons.

Johnson caused further outrage when he told another Labour MP, Tracy Brain, who was elected to Cox's seat, that the "best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox and to bring this country together is, I think, to get Brexit done".

"Crass and dangerous. If you think extreme language doesn't fuel political violence across Europe, including the UK, then you're not paying attention," British EU commissioner for security, Julian King tweeted on the prime minister's language.

Several female MPs have said that Johnson's language is fuelling death threats and social media abuse against them.

Johnson was nevertheless cheered on by many Conservative MPs as the party intends to press ahead with its party conference in Manchester next week.

On Thursday, MPs will be asked to vote on shutting down the parliament for three days to accommodate the conference.

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