Opposition parties reject Boris Johnson's election plan

6 September 2019, 10:03

Opposition leaders agreed not to support an election until the prospect of No Deal was removed
Opposition leaders agreed not to support an election until the prospect of No Deal was removed. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The four opposition parties today agreed that they would not back Boris Johnson's plan for a snap general election until No Deal Brexit was taken off the table.

Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and Plaid Cymru announced they were all in agreement following a conference call led by Jeremy Corbyn earlier today.

A Labour party source confirmed the conference call took place this morning, with a spokesman saying, "Jeremy Corbyn hosted a positive conference call with other opposition party leaders this morning."

Discussions ranged from how to prevent a no-deal Brexit, to their approach to Boris Johnson's latest bid to trigger a general election.

All those involved in the talks will vote against or abstain from Monday's poll, scuppering the PM's plans for an early snap election.

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in Westminster, said he was "desperate for an election" but could not support one until Article 50 was extended.

He said: "It's not just about our own party interests, it's about our collective national interests.

"So we are prepared to work with others to make sure we get the timing right, but the timing right on the basis of securing that extension to Article 50."

Members from all included parties are fearful that an election on Boris Johnson's terms would see him force through No Deal on 31 October after he said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than go back to the EU to try and extend Brexit negotiations.

Boris Johnson last night said he would rather be 'dead in a ditch' than try to renegotiate a Brexit extension
Boris Johnson last night said he would rather be 'dead in a ditch' than try to renegotiate a Brexit extension. Picture: pa

Plaid Cyrmu said it would not support Monday's vote, with Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts saying voting for the election now would "undermine" progress in blocking no-deal.

A cross-party bid to require the PM to ask for a Brexit extension if there is not a deal in place cleared the Commons on Wednesday and is due to complete its progress through the Lords on Friday.

Asked if he could make a promise to the public not to return to Brussels to ask for a further Brexit delay, the PM said: "Yes, I can.

"I would rather be dead in a ditch."

But he declined to give a direct answer when asked if he would resign before requesting that delay.

Instead, he said: "It costs a billion pounds a month, it achieves absolutely nothing. What on Earth is the point of further delay? I think it's totally, totally pointless."

The PM has had a lot on his hands both politically and literally this week
The PM has had a lot on his hands both politically and literally this week. Picture: PA

The Prime Minister said he hated "banging on about Brexit" and added: "I don't want an election at all, but frankly I cannot see any other way.

"The only way to get this thing done, to get this thing moving, is to make that decision.

"Do you want this Government to take us out on October 31 or do you want Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party to go to that crucial summit in Brussels on October 17, effectively hand over control to the EU and keep us in beyond October 31?

"I think it's a no-brainer and I'm sorry to bring this painful subject up this afternoon but that's the reality of what we face and for me there can only be one way forward for our country."

His words came after another testing day form the Prime Minister in which he was forced to acknowledge a Brexit split with his brother Jo who quit the Government saying he had been "torn between family loyalty and the national interest".

Jo Johnson, who had been a senior minister attending meetings of his brother's Cabinet, said it was an "unresolvable tension".

The Prime Minister said his brother "does not agree with me about the European Union because it's an issue that obviously divides families and divides everybody".

Jo Johnson announced on Twitter he was quitting his role as Universities Minister and would stand down as MP for Orpington.

He said: "In recent weeks I've been torn between family loyalty and the national interest - it's an unresolvable tension & time for others to take on my roles as MP & Minister. #overandout"

Jo Johnson is pro-European and has previously called for a second referendum, a position that puts him at odds with the Prime Minister, who has vowed to leave the EU on October 31 with or without a Brexit deal.

Tensions over Europe within the family are well known, with sister Rachel Johnson joking "the family avoids the topic of Brexit especially at meals as we don't want to gang up on the PM".

It is understood Jo Johnson will stand down as an MP at the next election.

Speaking in Yorkshire, the Prime Minister said his younger brother was a "fantastic guy" and a "brilliant minister".

Acknowledging the split on Europe he added: "What Jo would agree is that we need to get on and sort this thing out."

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: "Boris Johnson poses such a threat that even his own brother doesn't trust him."

Shadow policing minister Lou Haigh added: "If your own brother doesn't believe you're acting in the national interest, why should the country?"

Former justice secretary David Gauke, one of those who lost the whip for rebelling against the Government this week, said: "Lots of MPs have had to wrestle with conflicting loyalties in recent weeks.

"None more so than Jo. This is a big loss to Parliament, the Government and the Conservative Party."

Also on Thursday, Northern Ireland minister Nick Hurd became the latest Tory MP to announce he would not stand at the next general election as he cited "the ongoing division over Brexit".

The PM stressed the importance of Union's survival
The PM stressed the importance of Union's survival. Picture: PA

In another development, Mr Johnson renewed attacks on campaigners pushing for Scottish independence, saying he will "strain every nerve" to keep the UK together.

Although Scotland voted against independence in its 2014 referendum, the issue has maintained prominence, with many campaigners pushing to revisit the question after Britain leaves the EU.

Writing in Friday's Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson insisted there would be no reason for Scotland to leave a post-Brexit UK, as he detailed a major boost in funding to assist Scottish farmers.

"No greater responsibility rests upon the Prime Minister than safeguarding and strengthening our Union and all it represents," Mr Johnson wrote.