British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday lost his first major vote in Parliament on Brexit as rebel MPs from his own Conservative Party sided with the Opposition to take control of the House of Commons business, which could delay Brexit and force snap elections.
In a vote that went against Johnson 328 votes to 301, the Commons got through a crucial motion that demands a debate on seeking a further extension from the European Union (EU) to the October 31 Brexit deadline if no withdrawal agreement is in place by mid-October.
With 21 of Johnson’s own party MPs voting against the government, the prospect of the bill to block a no-deal Brexit clearing on Wednesday became more of a reality and the likelihood of a snap general election also in play by around October 14.
If the vote on Wednesday also goes against Johnson, he will be tied down by Parliament to seek until at least January 31, 2020, to finalise a so-called divorce bill.
As was expected, Johnson made a statement immediately after confirming that he will not surrender to that demand and will instead table his own motion under the UK’s Fixed Term Parliament Act to seek a general election to avert what he branded as “more dither, more delay and more confusion”.
“Let there be no doubt about the consequences of this vote tonight. It means that Parliament is on the brink of wrecking any deal we might be able to strike in Brussels,” said Johnson soon after his first major defeat as PM.
“Because tomorrow’s bill would hand control of the negotiations to the EU. And that would mean more dither, more delay, more confusion,” he said.
In a clear warning to his party rebels, he said if Parliament votes for the bill to block a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday, the public will have to choose who goes to the EU on October 17 to sort the issue out and take Brexit forward.
“The people of this country will have to choose. The Leader of the Opposition [Jeremy Corbyn] has been begging for an election for two years.
“I don’t want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow [Wednesday] to stop the negotiations and to compel another pointless delay of Brexit, potentially for years, then that will be the only way to resolve this. I can confirm that tonight we will are tabling a motion under the Fixed Term Parliament Act,” he said.
Corbyn said the vote had proved there is no majority in the UK for a no-deal Brexit and that Johnson should first take no deal off the table before trying to table any election motion.