British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday made a fresh push to get lawmakers to back his plan for a pre-Christmas election after a third Brexit delay.
The Conservative leader is trying to lead Britain through a three-year crisis that was meant to end Thursday with the country’s exit from the European Union.
But he was forced to abandon his “do-or-die” pledge to leave the bloc on schedule and begrudgingly accepted another extension from Brussels until the end of January next year.
Britain’s inability to break its half-century bond with the EU has called a halt to costly “no-deal” exit preparations and reportedly seen freshly minted 50-pence commemorative Brexit coins melted down.
Johnson is now trying to secure an early general election in a bid to win a majority that could allow him to push through legislation to enact Brexit.
His third attempt to get parliament to agree to disband early and hold a general election on December 12 ended in failure again on Monday night after he failed to get the required support of two-thirds of MPs.
But he was set to try yet again for the same date on Tuesday using a different parliamentary procedure that would only require a simple majority to get his early polls.
He consulted his cabinet ministers early Tuesday to plot strategy in advance of another gruelling session of the House of Commons that could stretch into the night.
Johnson’s new attempt amends existing laws requiring a two-thirds majority by proposing a simple bill with an election date.
“This house cannot any longer keep this country hostage,” Johnson told lawmakers after they defeated Monday’s election attempt.
Johnson’s election push is piling pressure on the main opposition Labour Party to come out in support.
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is being torn by rival camps within his own party and facing poor poll numbers that show the Conservatives in a strong lead.
Corbyn has argued that he cannot back an election until Johnson promises not to take Britain out of the EU without a new trade deal when the post-Brexit transition period ends in December 2020.
Britain would be following EU rules until that time.
“This is a prime minister who cannot be trusted,” Corbyn said Monday.
But some Labour members voted for an early election and others are signalling a general acceptance that one is probably inevitable by this stage.
The main arguments have now boiled down to the actual date of the polls. The last election to be held in December was in 1923.
Johnson insists on December 12. A rival plan proposed by the pro-European Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP) proposes December 9.
The second option is also preferred by Labour as it edges toward backing an early poll.
Some in the party say the later date reduces the number of more liberal students voting because it comes after they finish their semesters and return home for the winter break.
Labour’s trade spokesman Barry Gardiner told BBC radio “the first thing” for Johnson to do to get his party’s backing was “to ensure that students are not going to be disenfranchised by an election on December 12”.
The debate appears to be one of principle.
The SNP’s parliamentary leader Ian Blackford urged Labour to not “be the handmaidens to the prime minister’s Brexit” and to fight for the earlier date.
Johnson is mainly concerned about amendments that could be attached to his bill.
One proposed option would extend voting rights to EU citizens — a group that strongly opposed Brexit.
Another would lower the voting age from 18 to 16.