Johnson Calls for Snap Election After Another Brexit Defeat
A defiant U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hit back after a second crushing defeat for his Brexit strategy in two days and called for a snap general election.
In a high stakes gamble that risks his own job just six weeks after becoming premier, Johnson said an emergency poll was the only way out of the Brexit deadlock that has paralyzed British politics for the past three years.
"It is completely impossible for government to function if the House of Commons refuses to pass anything that the government proposes," he said in a statement to a noisy parliament. "In my view and the view of the government, there must now be an election on Tuesday 15 October."
Members of Parliament began debating Johnson’s plan for a snap election and were due to vote on whether to approve it later on Wednesday night. But with opposition parties saying they won’t back him, because they don’t trust him to keep his promises, Johnson looks set to suffer yet another rejection.
“We want an election because we look forward to turfing this government out,” opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn responded. “The offer of the election today is a bit like the offer of an apple to Snow White by the wicked queen -- because what he’s offering is not an apple or even an election, but the poison of no deal.”
Corbyn said he would back an election once the bill to stop a no-deal Brexit had become law.
The back-and-forth took place after MPs moved decisively to stop Britain lurching out of the European Union without an agreement in eight weeks’ time.
Johnson failed to stop the House of Commons voting for a draft law designed to thwart his plan to take the U.K. out of the EU -- with or without a deal -- on Oct. 31. Instead, MPs voted by 327 to 299 in favor of forcing Johnson to ask the EU to delay Brexit by three months to Jan. 31 if he can’t get a deal agreed, or if he fails to persuade Parliament to leave the bloc without one.
The bill will now move to the unelected second chamber, the House of Lords. It needs to pass in both houses to become law.
Johnson resisted the draft law with all his power. On Tuesday night he fired 21 MPs from his ruling Conservative Party after they refused to carry out his orders and voted against him. On Wednesday, Johnson said again he will never ask the EU for another delay to Brexit.
"It is clear that there is therefore only one way forward for this country," Johnson said. "The country must now decide whether the leader of the opposition or I go to those negotiations in Brussels on 17 October to sort this out."
Johnson is going to push hard to get this election.
If he loses the vote proposing a snap poll on Wednesday, he is planning to try again on Monday, people familiar with the matter said. He told a private meeting of Tory MPs that he wants to get on with the election campaign, as it’s the only way to break the deadlock.
But his plan is a huge gamble. Two years ago Theresa May called a snap election expecting to win a landslide. Instead, she lost the majority she started with, a failure that resulted in the chaos and confusion that has engulfed British politics ever since.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.