Despite further defeats, Johnson attempting to force snap UK election

Published 06.09.2019 00:18

Prime Minister Boris Johnson kept up his push for an early election as a way to break Britain's Brexit impasse, as lawmakers moved to stop the U.K. leaving the European Union next month without a divorce deal. He suffered another setback as his own brother quit the government yesterday, saying it was not serving the national interest. Boris Johnson's government said yesterday it would make a second attempt next week to call an early general election, to try to break the political deadlock over Brexit. The day after MPs rejected the first attempt to call a snap poll, senior minister Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs he would put forward a "motion relating to an early parliamentary election" to be voted on Monday evening.

Johnson's office said the prime minister would appeal directly to the public, arguing in a speech later that politicians must "go back to the people and give them the opportunity to decide what they want." He called Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn's refusal to endorse an election a "cowardly insult to democracy."

Johnson's determination to lead Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31, come hell or high water, is facing strong opposition from lawmakers, including members of his own Conservative Party who oppose a "no-deal" Brexit. In a personal blow, the prime minister's brother, Jo Johnson, quit the government, saying he could no longer endure the conflict "between family loyalty and the national interest."

On Wednesday, the prime minister asked Parliament to back an Oct. 15 election, after lawmakers moved to block his plan to leave the EU on Oct. 31, even if there is no withdrawal agreement to pave the way. But Parliament turned down his motion. Johnson needed the support of two-thirds of the 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons to trigger an election, a total of 434, but got just 298, with 56 voting no and the rest abstaining. The main opposition Labour party abstained in Wednesday's vote, saying it would not support an election until the bill blocking a no-deal Brexit was approved. The bill, debated in the unelected upper House of Lords, is expected to become law by Monday.

Government sources say they hope Labour would at that point back an election. However, Labour is divided over the timing of any poll. Johnson wants a public vote before an EU summit on Oct. 17, which could be the last chance to get a Brexit deal before Britain's scheduled departure on Oct. 31. But some in the Labour Party want an election after Oct. 31, which would mean Johnson would have been forced to delay Brexit.

Johnson's solution is to seek an election that could shake up Parliament and produce a less troublesome crop of lawmakers. It is a risky gambit: Opinion polls don't point to a clear majority for the Conservatives and the public mood is volatile. British prime ministers used to be able to call elections at will, but under 2011 legislation fixing elections at five-rear intervals, they now need the support of MPs to hold an early poll.

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