Prime Minister Boris Johnson blamed his opposition Labour rival for Britain’s failure to leave the European Union by Thursday’s deadline and promised to deliver Brexit by January — if he wins the upcoming pre-Christmas election.
Johnson is riding high in opinion polls going into the December 12 vote that will be Britain’s third in four years.
But he risks a backlash over his unkept “do or die” promise to take Britain out by October 31 — and again set himself up for another potential fall by promising to meet the next deadline.
The Conservative leader, who wants no more delays to the process, cast himself as a victim of parliamentary opposition parties that refused to follow the wishes of UK voters who chose to leave Europe in the knife-edge 2016 referendum.
“After three-and-a-half years, it was perfectly obvious to me that this parliament is just not going to vote Brexit through,” Johnson said during a campaign stop at a hospital.
“If you vote for us and we get our programme through, which we will — as a I say, it’s oven-ready, it’s there to go — we can be out, at the absolute latest, by January next year.”
‘It’s not about me’
Pro-EU campaigners and business executives breathed a sigh of relief that Britain had been given a stay of execution to avoid a Halloween Brexit nightmare that could have seen it crash out of the bloc after 46 years without a plan.
Johnson confounded expectations by securing a revised EU divorce deal that Brussels had long refused to touch.
But he was forced to follow through on parliamentary orders and ask EU leaders for more time after Labour mustered enough cross-party support to extend parliamentary debates and delay a final vote.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would throw out Johnson’s plan and get Brexit “sorted” within the first six months of grabbing power by negotiating more EU-friendly separation terms.
He would then put it up for a vote against the option of simply staying the 27-nation bloc.
“We’ll let the people decide whether to leave with a sensible deal or remain. It really isn’t that complicated,” Corbyn told a party rally at a London art centre.
“And we, the Labour government, will carry out whatever the people decide.”
But the veteran socialist avoided answering a direct question on which way he himself would vote.
“It’s not about me, it’s not any individual on this platform, it’s not a presidential election,” Corbyn said.
‘Government that cares’
Corbyn has been accused of seeking to shift the debate onto more domestic subjects such as health and social care to avoid scrutiny of his own vague position on Europe.
He has said in the past that he voted to leave in 2016. But he has also spent much of his political career attacking Brussels as a cauldron of crony capitalism.
Corbyn promised to push the most “radical” agenda Britain has ever seen. He pledged to put “wealth and power in the hands of the many” and eliminate everything from poverty to university tuition fees.
“Together we can pull down the corrupt system to build a genuine government that cares for all,” he said.
Business leaders warn that Labour’s plan to reimpose state ownership over railways and other major industries would cost at least £196 billion ($253 billion, 228 billion euros).
But a National Institute of Economic and Social Research study suggested Wednesday that Johnson’s Brexit deal could leave Britain £70 billion worse off in 10 years.
Outgoing MPs blame abuse
Almost 60 members of the 650-seat lower House of Commons have announced they will not stand in the coming election.
The number has raised eyebrows because — while dozens usually leave before general election — many came from the more moderate and wing of Johnson’s party.
Senior cabinet minister Nicky Morgan was one of several to at least partly link her decision to the “abuse” lawmakers receive from the public.
Divisions over Brexit have seen sometimes toxic rhetoric on all sides. Death threats against lawmakers and attacks on social media have risen in recent years.
Morgan described the “clear impact on my family and the other sacrifices involved in, and the abuse for, doing the job of a modern MP”.
Long-standing Conservative MP Caroline Spelman warned of a “wild west of internet abuse” as she stepped down.
John Bercow stepped down on Thursday after 10 years as speaker of Britain’s House of Commons — a role that rocketed him into the heart of the Brexit battle, and won him European fans.
The man in the middle of more than three years of fiery parliamentary debates has proved a controversial figure, loathed by pro-Brexit supporters and hailed by its foes.
Animated, verbose and with an idiosyncratic style, the 56-year-old Bercow has yelled “Order! Order!” more than 14,000 times during his tenure as the 157th speaker.
His detractors call him pompous — one MP even branded him a “sanctimonious dwarf” — but his backers say he has bolstered the rights of backbenchers to hold the government to account.
A social media mash-up by German television of Bercow trying to calm down rowdy MPs has been seen thousands of times. A Belgian newspaper called him “irreplaceable”.
Dutch daily De Volksrant wrote: “The only order in British politics comes from John Bercow’s mouth in these turbulent days.”
Both Britain’s main party leaders paid tribute to Bercow Wednesday as he chaired the weekly prime minister’s questions session for the final time.
‘Unreturnable volleys and smashes’
“Although we may disagree about some of the legislative innovations you have favoured, there is no doubt in my mind that you have been a great servant of this parliament and of this House of Commons,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Johnson, in his own inimitable style, said the tennis fan had been “peppering every part of the chamber with (his) own thoughts and opinions, like some uncontrollable tennis ball machine, delivering a series of literally unplayable, unreturnable volleys and smashes”.
He also likened Bercow’s glare to a “trademark Tony Montana scowl”, after Al Pacino’s character in the 1983 film “Scarface”.
Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn added: “You’ve done so much to reform this House of Commons and our democracy is the stronger for the way you have done it.”
Bercow will not stand in the December 12 general election.
His replacement as speaker will be chosen on Monday. Nine candidates are standing, including his three deputies and former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman.
Bercow’s number two, Lindsay Hoyle, is the bookmakers’ odds-on favourite to win.
By convention, the main parties give the speaker a clear run in a general election, standing down their candidates.
‘Egotistical preening popinjay’
Born in 1963 into a modest family, Bercow grew up in London and was a child tennis champion, leading to his lifelong love of the sport, notably Swiss great Roger Federer.
He was always a Conservative, but in his youth held hard-right views that he now rejects.
He became an MP in 1997 and 12 years later was elected as speaker, becoming the youngest person to hold the role for 100 years.
While the Brexit clashes came to dominate his tenure, Bercow also caused a stir by saying he would not allow US President Donald Trump to address parliament during a planned visit.
Bercow married Sally Illman in 2002 and they have three children.
She became a household name after posing for a photoshoot in Bercow’s official residence in the Houses of Parliament draped only a sheet, and appearing on the “Celebrity Big Brother” reality television programme.
Critics say Bercow is filled with self-importance.
The Daily Mail newspaper called him an “egotistical preening popinjay” who had “shamelessly put his anti-Brexit bias before the national interest — and is a disgrace to his office”.
But Bercow’s supporters say he has sought to modernise parliament, abandoning the speaker’s traditional robes for a simple gown over a suit, and seeking to make it easier for female MPs with new babies.
British MPs on Tuesday agreed to hold an early election on December 12, backing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call to try to break the crippling political deadlock that has seen Brexit delayed three times.
Hours after the EU formally agreed to postpone Britain’s departure again, up to the end of January, lawmakers voted for the country’s third election in four years.
It is a gamble for Johnson, who leads a minority Conservative government, but he had nowhere left to turn after MPs rejected the Brexit terms he struck with Brussels less than two weeks ago.
His Conservatives are currently well ahead of the opposition Labour party in opinion polls, and he hopes to win a majority in the lower House of Commons in order to push through his Brexit plan.
But his failure to keep to his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU on October 31 risks a backlash.
The election outcome could have huge implications for Britain’s tortuous Brexit process, which began with the 2016 EU referendum.
Labour is committed to a new “people’s vote”, while two smaller opposition parties want to reverse Brexit and remain in the European Union.
Many Labour MPs are wary of an election, fearful of defeat under their leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn, but he swung his support behind the poll.
The other 27 EU member states earlier formally adopted Monday’s decision by envoys to delay Brexit by up to three months until the end of January, with an option for Britain to leave early if it ratifies an exit deal.
“To my British friends, The EU27 has formally adopted the extension. It may be the last one. Please make the best use of this time,” European Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter.
The election bill will now go to the unelected upper House of Lords for debate on Wednesday, but peers are expected to back the plan, paving the way for parliament to be dissolved early next week .
Johnson took office in July promising to end the wrangling over Brexit which has bitterly divided the country, but a rebellion over his hardline strategy left him without a majority in parliament.
Unable to win MPs’ support for his divorce terms, he was forced by law earlier this month to ask his fellow EU leaders for a delay.
After three failed attempts to pass a normal election motion, which requires the support of two-thirds of MPs, Johnson on Tuesday took an alternative path.
He introduced a bill to legislate for an election — a method which required only a simple majority, and this passed by 438 votes to 20.
“We are left with no choice but to go to the country to break free from this impasse,” he had told MPs.
A newly elected parliament would have a “new mandate to deliver on the will of people and get Brexit done”, he said.
In a move to unite his Conservative party ahead of the poll — the first to be held in December since 1923 — Johnson readmitted 10 of the 21 MPs he expelled last month for defying his Brexit plan.
Labour had sought to push for the general election to be held on December 9, but this was defeated by 315 votes to 295.
Veteran socialist Corbyn had been torn between rival camps over whether to support Johnson’s election initiative.
But the smaller Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats — who both oppose Brexit — wanted an election, making it hard for Labour to stand in their way.
Corbyn had refused to back an election until Johnson’s threat to leave the EU without a divorce deal was removed, but said this was resolved by the three-month Brexit delay.
“This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country and take on the vested interests holding people back,” he said Tuesday.
“We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change that our country has ever seen.
“This is our chance to build a country for the many not the few and fit for the next generation.”
Experts warn that British politics remains deeply volatile more than three years after the referendum vote, and say the election result could be unpredictable.
There was significant voter switching between the 2015 and 2017 elections.
Election specialist John Curtice from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow said Johnson is in a strong position to get a majority — but an election remains a gamble.
“Boris has to win. A hung parliament and Boris is out,” he said, warning that a Labour-led coalition would likely take over.
British MPs looked set Tuesday to vote for a pre-Christmas elections to try to resolve the political deadlock over its exit from the European Union, as the bloc warned there may not be any more Brexit delays.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying for a fourth time to call a snap poll for December, and looks likely to succeed after the main opposition Labour party said it would support him.
As ever in the tortuous Brexit process that began with the 2016 EU referendum, however, there was a risk of the House of Commons rejecting the plan in a row over extending the franchise to EU citizens and teenagers.
In Brussels, European Council President Donald Tusk warned against prolonging the turmoil.
Confirming that the three-month Brexit delay approved in principle by EU members on Monday had now been formally adopted, he warned: “It may be the last one.
“Please make the best use of this time.”
Johnson took office in July promising to end more than three years of political wrangling over Britain’s EU exit but a rebellion over his hardline strategy has left him without a Commons majority.
Unable to get MPs’ support for his divorce deal with Brussels, he was forced by law to abandon his “do-or-die” pledge to leave the bloc on October 31.
He is now pressing for an early election in December which he hopes will give him the Commons majority he needs to push through legislation to enact Brexit.
After three failed attempts to pass a normal election motion, which requires the support of two-thirds of MPs, the prime minister on Tuesday took an alternative path.
Johnson introduced a bill to legislate for an election — a method which requires only a simple majority to pass.
“We are left with no choice but to go to the country to break free from this impasse,” he told MPs.
A newly elected parliament would have a “new mandate to deliver on the will of people and get Brexit done”, he said.
In a major boost, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced his support for a December poll after meeting with his top team on Tuesday morning.
The veteran socialist has been torn between rival camps within his own party over whether to proceed, with some fearing Labour faces electorate defeat.
Corbyn had argued that he would not allow an election until Johnson’s threat to leave the EU without a divorce deal was removed.
The EU’s agreement to delay Brexit meant that “for the next three months, our condition of taking no-deal off the table has now been met”, he announced.
“We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.”
After the EU delay, the government halted costly “no-deal” exit preparations and reportedly melted down 50-pence commemorative Brexit coins.
However, the risk of a disorderly exit may still remain, for example if there is no Brexit deal by January and the EU declines to grant a further delay.
‘Boris has to win’
Johnson is pressing for an election on December 12, but some opposition parties pushing for December 9 — with the decision to be made in votes later Tuesday.
There is a risk that the election plan is derailed, due to a number of amendments tabled to Johnson’s legislation.
One demands EU citizens living in Britain be allowed to vote in the election, while another wants the franchise extended to people aged 16 and 17.
The government opposes both, and Downing Street said that if either passed, it would abandon the entire project.
There have been two general elections in the last four years in Britain, in 2015 and 2017, and the next is not scheduled to happen until 2022.
Johnson is taking a risk in calling an early poll, but he has few other options.
John Curtice from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow said Johnson is in a strong position to get a majority but an election remains a gamble.
“Boris has to win. A hung parliament and Boris is out,” he said, referring to situation — as is the case now — where no party has a majority in the Commons.
Curtice told AFP that failure to win a Conservative majority would see a Labour-led coalition seek a new Brexit referendum.
Britain appeared to move a step closer Sunday to holding an early election in December, after two opposition parties backed the idea — but only if EU leaders delay Brexit until January.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats broke ranks with the main opposition Labour party to offer Prime Minister Boris Johnson the snap poll he wants, only on their terms.
But his government dismissed it as a “gimmick”, while the plan depends on how long European Union leaders will delay Brexit — and they are watching to see what happens in London.
Britain is due to end its 46 years of EU membership on Thursday, but Johnson was forced by law to request a three-month delay after MPs last weekend refused to approve his exit deal, the latest twist in the tumultuous divorce process.
Exasperated EU leaders have agreed to a postponement but disagree over the length, with a decision due on Monday or Tuesday.
At the same time, Johnson will ask British lawmakers to back an early election. He wants a December 12 vote, hoping MPs will approve his divorce deal first.
But his minority Conservative government needs the support of opposition MPs, and they have previously twice refused.
The Labour party dislikes his Brexit deal and says it will not back an election until the risk of Britain leaving the EU with no deal at all is removed.
But in a new twist, the SNP and the Lib Dems — which both strongly oppose Brexit and between them have 54 MPs in the 650-seat House of Commons — have offered another way.
They propose that MPs give up on Johnson’s Brexit deal and move to a December 9 vote — as long as EU leaders agree to delay Brexit until January 31.
‘See what the EU says’
Members of Johnson’s government dismissed the SNP-Lib Dem idea as a “gimmick” and a “stunt”.
“If the SNP and Lib Dems want an election then they have a chance to vote for one as quickly as tomorrow when the government’s motion is voted on,” Culture Minister Nicky Morgan told Sky News.
Senior Labour MP Diane Abbott said her party would wait to hear from Brussels.
“We are waiting to see what the EU says. Make no mistake… the Labour party is up for an election,” she told BBC television.
Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament, tweeted that the SNP-Lib Dem proposal was “sensible”.
And France, which has so far objected to a three-month Brexit delay, said Sunday that an election would be a reason for a postponement.
“If they want to hold elections, we must give them the time to do that,” European Affairs minister Amelie de Montchalin told French media.
Holding Britain ‘hostage’
Johnson has proposed an election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which requires the support of two-thirds of MPs — 434 out of 650.
The SNP and Lib Dems propose instead passing a bill with the single purpose of holding a December 9 vote, which could pass with a simple majority.
“The SNP is prepared to back a bill that seeks to bring forward an early general election on Monday December 9 once an extension to the Brexit deadline to January 31, 2020 has been secured,” SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said.
However, to even be debated the legislation requires government support or an emergency motion backed by a majority of MPs to make time in the parliamentary timetable.
Johnson, a leading Brexit figure in the 2016 EU referendum, is currently ahead in opinion polls.
But experts say the referendum upset traditional political allegiances, and voter volatility makes an election result hard to predict.
Downing Street is wary of a backlash among voters angry that Johnson missed his repeated promises to leave the EU on October 31.
But it could mitigate the damage by persuading MPs to ratify the divorce deal before an election — or at least showing that they tried.
“Parliament cannot hold the country hostage any longer,” Johnson said in a statement late Saturday.
European Union members agreed on Monday to postpone Brexit for up to three months, stepping in with a decision less than 90 hours before Britain was due to crash out with no divorce deal.
The next deadline for departure will be January 31 next year — although the other 27 capitals would allow an earlier date if London ratifies a withdrawal agreement before then.
“The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK’s request for a Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020,” said Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, which represents member states.
“The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure,” he said, after ambassadors met in Brussels to approve the extension.
According to a copy of the agreement seen by AFP, if Prime Minister Boris Johnson convinces the UK parliament to approve an amicable divorce accord before next year, Brexit could be on November 30 or December 31.
But in the meantime London must nominate a senior official to serve on the next European Commission and must agree that the withdrawal agreement it struck last month will not now be renegotiated, according to the EU text.
A European source said the next step would be for London to formally accept the extension, after which Tusk will ask the EU capitals to sign off on it. “We hope for this to be concluded by Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said.
Leaving the ambassador’s gathering, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said it had been a “short and efficient and constructive meeting,” adding: “I’m very happy that a decision has been taken.”
A delay could have been agreed last week, but Paris was reluctant, concerned it would do nothing to boost the chances of Britain deciding how to handle the end of its five-decade relationship with the EU.
Johnson had been pushing for a definitive break on October 31 after finally striking a withdrawal deal with fellow EU leaders at an October 17 summit.
But he has yet to persuade sceptical British MPs to ratify the accord, raising the spectre of a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit and severe economic disruption in the United Kingdom.
In the meantime, he is trying to break the logjam — and strengthen his tenuous grip on office — by demanding an early election to secure a parliamentary majority.
But the British opposition has been reluctant to deliver the two-thirds vote needed to approve a snap poll until the threat of a disorderly Brexit is off the table.
The expected decision to postpone Brexit beyond the end of the month would do this, but Paris wanted EU capitals to wait until the UK election timetable was clear.
On Monday, however, European diplomats told AFP they would wait no longer and would make a decision without further delay after Britain agreed it would not try to change the withdrawal deal.
“The conditions of the extension have been specified and reinforced, notably on the fact the deal is not renegotiable,” a French diplomatic source told AFP in Paris.
Later Monday, Johnson was to ask the House of Commons to vote on a snap election, which he wants to hold on December 12 — after MPs have had time to ratify his Brexit deal.
However he faces defeat on that move, as with his two previous election calls.
He needs the support of two-thirds of the 650 MPs, but does not have even a simple majority.
The Labour party dislikes Johnson’s Brexit deal and says it will not back an election until his threat of leaving the EU with no deal at all is removed.
More than three years after Britons voted 52-48 percent for Brexit in a 2016 referendum, the country and parliament remain divided.
Johnson, a leader of the “Leave” campaign, took office in July this year vowing to take Britain out of the European Union on October 31.
But MPs rebelled against his threat to sever 46 years of ties without a deal and passed a law requiring him to seek a delay if they refused to accept his divorce terms.
The president of the European Council Donald Tusk said Tuesday that he will recommend to EU leaders that they postpone Brexit beyond the current October 31 deadline.
“Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to pause the process of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, and in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension,” he tweeted.
“For this I will propose a written procedure,” he said, which means that the 27 other member state leaders would not have to convene an emergency summit.
British MPs gave their initial approval Tuesday to legislation enacting Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s EU divorce deal — but rejected his plan to rush it through parliament, opening the door for yet another Brexit delay.
Johnson immediately announced he would pause the process of trying to ratify the text he struck with European Union leaders last week, and said the EU should consider Britain’s request for a delay beyond October 31.
Responding to the vote, European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said European Council president Donald Tusk was consulting EU leaders about a possible postponement.
Johnson won a significant victory when the House of Commons voted by 329 to 299 to approve in principal a bill that implements his Brexit deal.
But just minutes later, MPs rejected by 322 to 308 his timetable motion demanding they push through the bill in three days to allow Britain’s departure at the end of this month.
Johnson has vowed to stick to the October 31 date and said Britain would step up preparations in case of a disorderly “no deal” exit.
On Saturday, he was forced to ask EU leaders to delay Brexit after MPs refused to approve his deal — despite having once said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than see the deadline postponed.
Ratifying the bill before October 31 would have allowed him to avoid this legally mandated delay, which was set provisionally at three months but is open for EU leaders to amend.
With speedy ratification now in doubt, a postponement seems likely.
“The EU must now make up their minds over how to answer parliament’s request for a delay,” Johnson told MPs.
He added: “I will speak to EU member states about their intentions. Until they have reached a decision, until we have reached a decision I will say, we will pause this legislation.
“Let me be clear — our policy remains that we should not delay, that we should leave the European Union on October 31. That is what I will say to the EU.”
Ahead of the vote, Johnson warned he would seek an election to break the political deadlock, although this requires the support of the Labour party.
– Blindside parliament – Johnson, a leading Brexit campaigner in the 2016 EU referendum, took office in July promising to deliver on the result come what may.
He defied expectations in striking a new divorce deal at a Brussels summit last month, and despite Saturday’s setback, has now shown he has the numbers to get it through parliament.
But to stick to his Brexit deadline he needs to get the deal through in the next week — and has no majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.
Opposition parties, many of whom dislike his divorce deal, said it was “ludicrous” to expect proper scrutiny of the legislation in less than three days.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has called for a second referendum on Brexit, said Johnson was trying to “blindside” MPs into supporting a “rotten bill”.
The Democratic Unionist Party, Johnson’s Northern Irish allies, accused him of duping them about new trading arrangements for the province.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said he “nearly choked” when he heard Johnson’s assurances, adding: “The prime minister thinks I can’t read the agreement.”
– EU ‘will be ready’ – The timetable motion was intended to ensure the House of Commons debated the bill quickly, allowing it to go onto the unelected upper House of Lords.
Johnson warned that seeking further time risked a “no-deal” exit if the EU refused a delay.
Speaking before the vote, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he saw “no justification at this stage” for further delay.
“It’s important for it to be announced today, because otherwise there will no option except ‘no deal’, which is not the solution we prefer.”
Businesses and markets on both sides of the Channel fear a “no-deal” Brexit, where Britain severs ties with its closest trading partner with no new plans in place after 46 years of integration.
The deal covers EU citizens’ rights, Britain’s financial settlements, a post-Brexit transition period until at least the end of 2020 and new trade arrangements for Northern Ireland.
It also sets out vague plans for a loose free trade agreement with the EU after Brexit.
An earlier Brexit text agreed by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May was rejected three times by MPs earlier this year.
The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, is consulting EU leaders about Britain’s request to delay Brexit until January 31, a spokeswoman for the European Commission said Tuesday.
The official, Mina Andreeva, was reacting after British MPs voted to prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson from pushing the withdrawal agreement through before the end of the month.
She tweeted that the Commission “takes note of tonight’s result and expects the UK government to inform us about the next steps” while Tusk “is consulting leaders on the UK’s request for an extension until 31 January 2020.”