Boris Johnson to push for election as Brexit delay looms

23 October 2019, 08:41

Boris Johnson to push for general election
Boris Johnson to push for general election. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson is expected to push for a general election if the EU offers a Brexit extension past the 31 October deadline, No10 has indicated.

Boris Johnson "paused" his Brexit Bill on Tuesday evening following a defeat in the House of Commons on the timetable for his legislation.

The ball is now in the EU's court as to whether they offer the UK an extension to Article 50 that would see Brexit delayed past 31 October.

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European Council President Donald Tusk is now recommending the EU27 leaders agree to the UK's request for a Brexit delay.

However, despite a meeting between the European chiefs at 4:30pm tonight there will be no decision on the extension for roughly 48 hours

Without a consensus decision coming until Friday, Westminster will remain in limbo as the EU countries mull over their verdict.

Under the Benn Act, Mr Johnson was forced to send the EU leader a letter asking the bloc for a three-month prolongation after his deal failed to pass through the Commons on Saturday.

However, a No 10 source suggested it would not accept a lengthy delay and would instead push for a general election which could take place in early December.

"On Saturday, Parliament asked for a delay until January and today Parliament blew its last chance," the source said.

"If Parliament's delay is agreed by Brussels, then the only way the country can move on is with an election. This Parliament is broken."

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland expressed his frustration at being unable to push the government's programme motion through the Commons in the space of three days on Tuesday evening.

Robert Buckland MP wants to "crack on" with the government&squot;s plans
Robert Buckland MP wants to "crack on" with the government's plans. Picture: PA

"We want to crack on. And if we can't crack on, regrettably it does seem that a general election is the only way to sort this impasse out," he said.

Other reports suggest the EU could offer the UK a "flextension" meaning the three-month lengthening of the deadline could come to a premature end if the UK ratifies a Brexit deal before 31 January.

If the prime minister wishes to get an election, though, he needs to receive a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons, which has previously seemed unlikely.

The Labour Party has ruled out an election until the possibility of No Deal on 31 October is taken off the table.

But on Wednesday morning Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said his party would agree to the election the UK leader wants if the EU confirm an extension to the end of January.

Shadow Minister Richard Burgon said Labour could agree to an election
Shadow Minister Richard Burgon said Labour could agree to an election. Picture: PA

Despite Mr Burgon's comments there are still major doubts within the Labour Party about calling for a popular vote.

If the government fails to receive the two-thirds majority it needs for an election, as stipulated by the Fixed Term Parliament Act, then it could try and push through a single line Bill stating an exact time and a date for an election.

This would require a simple majority in the Commons and improve its likelihood.

However, Father of the House Ken Clarke suggested MPs would attempt to amend any single line Bill, for example by trying to reduce the voting age down to 16, which could reduce the chances of a snap election.

On Tuesday, MPs approved the prime minister's Withdrawal Agreement Bill in principle by 329 votes to 299.

Minutes later he was defeated by a majority of 14 in a second vote on his fast-tracked timetable for the Bill, prompting him to pause the legislation.