Johnson Bid for Election Defeated in Parliament: Brexit Update
Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister, departs from the number 10 Downing Street on his way to attend a questions and answers session in Parliament in London, U.K. (Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg)

Johnson Bid for Election Defeated in Parliament: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) --

Boris Johnson’s latest attempt to trigger an early general election was defeated in Parliament on Monday and he immediately said he will try again. Earlier he had accepted the European Union’s offer of a three-month Brexit delay to Jan. 31.

Johnson said he has given up getting his withdrawal agreement bill passed by this Parliament and a general election would be the only way to resolve the deadlock that has stopped the U.K. ratifying his divorce deal with Brussels.

Key Developments:

  • EU Council President Donald Tusk’s spokesman confirms Johnson wrote to EU to accept extension
  • Johnson wins 299 votes for general election motion, short of the 434 needed for the necessary two-thirds majority in the House of Commons
  • Read more: What’s in a Deal? The Brexit Extension’s Key Points Summarized
  • Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he won’t vote for an election until the U.K. is no longer at risk of crashing out of the EU without an agreement
  • Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party are working together to try to force a snap poll on Dec. 9, reflecting a split with Labour
  • Pound rises 0.3%

EU Moves to Finalize Brexit delay (7:25 p.m.)

The so-called “written procedure” for the endorsement of the extension by EU27 governments has been activated, according to an EU diplomat.

The deadline is at 6 p.m. Brussels time tomorrow. If there are no objections from the bloc’s capitals by that time, the U.K will have until Jan. 31 at its disposal to find a way forward.

MPs Reject Johnson’s Early Election Bid (7:00 p.m.)

Boris Johnson failed in his latest attempt to hold an early general election, after MPs once again rejected his motion in the House of Commons.

Johnson fell short of the 434 votes needed to win a two-thirds majority for an early election, which he wanted to take place on Dec. 12. It’s the third time Johnson has tried to win approval for a motion paving the way for an election and he’s vowed to keep trying until he succeeds.

Johnson Open to Election on Dec 9-12 (6:25 p.m.)

The prime minister is drawing up a plan B to get an early election if he loses the vote on Monday, his spokesman said.

Boris Johnson’s alternative would pave the way for an election in the range of Dec. 9-12 and is likely to involve MPs voting later this week on a one-line piece of legislation simply stating the date for the snap poll.

Corbyn Hints He Might Back a Different Vote (5:45 p.m.)

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, argued his MPs can’t support an election tonight because they don’t trust Boris Johnson and can’t rely on his assurances about the date of the vote. But he hinted the position could change if Johnson proposed a short bill that fixed the date in law.

“We will consider carefully any legislation proposed that locks in the date,” Corbyn said. “We will agree to nothing until it’s clear and concrete what exactly is being proposed.”

Johnson Accepts EU Extension Offer (5:30 p.m.)

Boris Johnson has, as expected, obeyed the law that required him to accept the extension offered to him by the EU. After weeks of briefing by his officials that there were holes in that law, it seems there were none the prime minister’s lawyers’ could use.

“I have no discretion,” Johnson wrote in a letter, which was published by his office. The prime minister added this was “damaging to our democracy” and urged EU leaders to make clear this will be the last extension.

Labour to Abstain or Vote Against Early Election (2:40 p.m.)

The opposition Labour Party has agreed to maintain its position of abstaining or voting against a general election in Monday evening’s vote in the House of Commons, according to a person familiar with its plans.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership team, the shadow cabinet, discussed the issue earlier on Monday. The decision means Johnson won’t reach the required two-thirds of MPs to get an election in the vote later.

People’s Vote Campaign in Disarray (1:30 p.m.)

People’s Vote, the umbrella group for organizations pushing for a second referendum on Brexit is in disarray amid a war of words between leading officials.

On Monday morning, communications chief Tom Baldwin accused Roland Rudd – chairman of Open Britain, one of five groups backing the campaign, of “putting a wrecking ball” through People’s Vote after he said in an email to staff that Baldwin and Campaign Director James McGrory would leave the organization “with immediate effect.”

Baldwin told the BBC that Rudd doesn’t have the authority to sack him. For his part, Rudd said Baldwin has a "an opportunity for a different type of role" and “there’s no row about where we stand.”

People’s Vote posted a thread of 6 tweets on Twitter calling Rudd’s email a “boardroom coup” and saying “this campaign is not owned by any one person.” McGrory retweeted the posts.

Lib Dems Likely to Back Short Tory Bill (1:20 p.m.)

The Liberal Democrats are likely to back any move by the government to replicate their own proposal (see 12:30 p.m.) by putting forward a one-line bill setting a date for an election, two people familiar with the matter said.

Any Liberal Democrat support would be contingent on there being a triple lock to ensure the bill stipulates the election date, it doesn’t seek to ram through the Withdrawal Agreement before election day, and it protects against a no-deal Brexit before Jan. 31.

The officials also said the party is unlikely to support amendments to any bill because it needs to pass both houses quickly.

Why Macron Backed Down (1:10 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron has infuriated his EU partners in recent weeks with his trenchant opposition to letting North Macedonia and Albania start accession talks, and increased his isolation by holding up approval of the Brexit extension.

But after a call with Johnson on Sunday Macron changed tack. The French leader was convinced that Johnson wouldn’t try to renegotiate the deal or meddle in EU affairs during the extension period, an Elysee official said.

Macron also wanted to be seen as a team player. France wants to preserve the unity of the EU-27, which has been a key strength during the negotiations, the official added.

Regulators to Use Delay to Iron Out No-Deal Risks (1 p.m.)

A Brexit extension will give the U.K. and European Union more time to try to resolve residual risks to the financial system from a no-deal split, according to Nausicaa Delfas, an executive director at the Financial Conduct Authority.

“There are some outstanding issues that could crystallize if there is a no-deal at the end of January, and therefore for that reason we need to keep on with our preparations just to be prepared for all scenarios,” Delfas said in an interview. Among the issues are conflicting restrictions on which equities and derivatives would need to be traded in the EU or in the U.K.

But a short delay probably wouldn’t substantially alter financial firms’ preparations, she said.

“Often people say actually in financial services, we’ve already undergone a hard exit in the sense that people have already prepared,” Delfas said. “So it’s a question of judgment for them. But obviously a quite short delay to the end of January, I don’t think will make very much difference.”

Johnson Offers Pledge on Election Date (12.30 p.m.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s efforts to get an early election continue. He said in a written statement to Parliament that the poll would be held on Dec. 12 if the House of Commons votes for it later on Monday, and that Parliament would return before Dec. 23.

Those promises are designed to answer two arguments that Labour is using not to back an election. They say they can’t trust him not to put it off until a later date once Parliament has agreed to it, and also that Parliament might not return until January, meaning there wouldn’t be time to pass Brexit legislation.

If those pledges don’t shift Labour, a government official said Johnson is likely to offer his own version of the proposal (see 12 p.m.) from the Liberal Democrats: A one-line bill setting the date of the next election. That has problems (see 8:50 a.m.), but it doesn’t need Labour’s support to pass.

Tories Eye Lib Dem Plan for Dec. 9 Election (12 p.m.)

Without support from the main opposition Labour Party, the government looks set to lose Monday’s key vote in Parliament on Boris Johnson’s bid for an early general election on Dec. 12. So the government is examining a joint proposal (see 8:50 a.m.) from the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Nationalist Party to hold a snap poll on Dec. 9.

The two routes to an election are very different, with the government’s motion requiring a two-thirds majority in the House Commons, compared to just a simple majority for the Liberal Democrat proposal. The latter has obvious appeal for the government, though it also comes with considerable risk. As a so-called one-line bill, Members of Parliament can add amendments to the legislation, potentially wrecking it from the government’s perspective.

Another difference is that while the government’s proposal under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act would not go to the House of Lords, as a piece of legislation the Liberal Democrat plan would -- providing further opportunities for the bill to be altered.

But Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson pledged on Sunday to allow the bill’s passage without amendments, and according to a government official, the Dec. 9 date is doable. For Johnson, though, it would mean admitting Brexit will not happen in the short term.

No U.K. Response to EU Yet (11:40 a.m.)

Boris Johnson has not yet seen EU Council President Donald Tusk’s letter on the Brexit extension so is unable to respond, the British prime minister’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters in London.

Blaming Parliament for the Brexit delay, Slack said the prime minister’s preference would still be to leave on Oct. 31. Johnson will open a debate in the House of Commons later Monday and make the case for a general election to break the deadlock over leaving the EU.

“Parliament has blocked the timetable that would allow us to leave on Oct 31. Parliament has chosen more dither and delay,’’ Slack said. “We will have to look at the letter and then ministers will take decisions.”

No-deal Brexit planning is continuing as the action of any responsible government to be ready for all eventualities, Slack said.

U.K. Should Use Time ‘Wisely,’ EU Diplomat Says (11:35 a.m.)

As with the previous Brexit extension, the EU side hopes that the U.K. will use its extra time “wisely,” according to a diplomat in Brussels. The meeting of envoys this morning, following talks throughout the weekend, reaffirmed unity among the 27 remaining members, according to the official.

Extension Hides Bigger Threat for Johnson (11:10 a.m.)

Even if he can eventually deliver Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have less room for maneuver as he confronts a familiar dilemma: How to sever trade ties with the European Union after four decades of membership without triggering massive disruption to British business and the economy.

Monday’s decision by the EU to delay Britain’s departure by as long as three months means Johnson will have very little time to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the bloc before the end of 2020, when the planned transition period smoothing the U.K.’s withdrawal is due to end.

EU Official: Next Step for U.K. to Approve Delay (10 a.m.)

The next step in the Brexit extension process is for the European Union to seek the U.K.’s agreement, per the conditions of Article 50, an EU official said in a text message to reporters. After that’s secured, EU Council President Donald Tusk will begin the “written procedure” to formalize the decision among the remaining 27 EU leaders, with a deadline of 24 hours, the official said.

The aim is for the process to be concluded by Tuesday or Wednesday, the official said.

It’s worth noting that under the terms of the Benn Act, which was passed by Parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, Prime Minister Boris Johnson must accept if the EU offers an extension to Jan. 31.

EU Envoys Agree Delay to Jan. 31: Tusk (9:30 a.m.)

Envoys representing the 27 remaining European Union members agreed to the U.K. request for a Brexit extension to Jan. 31, EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter. The bloc’s decision will be formalized “through a written procedure,” Tusk said, meaning that there will be no leaders’ summit.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told reporters the diplomats’ meeting was “very short, effective and constructive” as he left the room.

What Envoys Will Discuss in Brussels (9 a.m.)

Envoys from the remaining 27 EU members states debate the wording of two separate documents this morning -- a six-page legal decision granting an extension, and a two-page declaration explaining the reasoning. The main points of the documents, drafts of which were obtained by Bloomberg on Sunday, are as follows:

  • Brexit will take place on the first day of the month following the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, “or on 1 February 2020, whichever is the earliest”
  • The Withdrawal Agreement isn’t up for renegotiation during the extension period. Note that EU leaders took a similar decision when they granted the previous extension in April, but broke their rule after Johnson’s government, with different red lines, took office
  • The U.K must nominate a candidate for EU Commissioner after the extension is granted. However, the wording of the documents suggests that the confirmation process of the British candidate may not be finalized before the end of January, meaning the U.K. won’t actually get to have a commissioner
  • The EU reminds the U.K. that it still has the right to revoke Brexit
  • Finally, EU governments warn that the U.K should do nothing which is seen as sabotaging the bloc during the extension period

Johnson’s Different Routes to an Election (8:50 a.m.)

The European Union’s apparent intention to extend the Brexit deadline to Jan. 31 could yet have an impact on Monday’s vote in the House of Commons. Yet Boris Johnson still looks likely to fall short of the two-thirds majority he needs to secure an early general election. That’s because an extension on its own doesn’t satisfy the opposition Labour Party’s position that it won’t support a snap poll until the risk of a no-deal Brexit is completely removed.

But over the weekend, another option emerged via a proposal from the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party. They suggested amending the Fixed-term Parliament Act to set the next election for Dec. 9, which crucially would require only a simple majority to pass. The risk for the government lies in MPs trying to attach amendments to the bill, but a U.K. official later indicated such a move could be considered if it loses Monday’s vote.

There’s a final way Johnson could get his election -- though it’s a longer and untested process, with significant risks. The opposition or Johnson himself could trigger a no-confidence vote in the government, which requires a simply majority to succeed. Party leaders then would have 14 days to form a new government that can win a confidence vote, with Parliament dissolved -- and a general election scheduled -- if all efforts fail.

Macron Backs Brexit Delay (7:48 a.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron will agree to a Brexit extension, easing the risk of the U.K. leaving the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31, according to a French government official.

Macron has agreed a delay until Jan. 31, said the official, who asked not to be identified. With other member states already supporting the move, France’s backing paves the way for EU diplomats to sign off on an extension during talks in Brussels on Monday.

Williamson Optimistic Government Can Win Vote (Earlier)

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he’s “optimistic” the government can win the vote on Monday to hold a general election, noting that the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party, for example, “are moving to the recognition that this Parliament isn’t going to deliver anything.”

“I actually think that you’ll see quite rapid movement,” Williamson told Sky News.

Williamson was touring the broadcast studios plugging a government announcement of 400 million pounds ($515 million) of spending on schools. It’s the latest in a succession of announcements of increased expenditure on education, health and policing by the Conservatives, and a reminder the ruling party is on a constant election footing,

Earlier:

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