MPs have rejected Boris Johnson’s plan for a snap general election to resolve the Brexit crisis.
The prime minister suffered yet another defeat after he did not secure the required support of two-thirds of MPs. The Commons voted 298 to 56, with a substantial number of MPs abstaining.
Opposition parties made clear they wanted to guarantee that a no-deal Brexit on October 31 was blocked before backing an election.
Johnson had asked for an October 15 election after MPs seized control of the Commons from his government to pass legislation which will block no-deal on Halloween.
But Labour said it would not fall into the PM’s “trap”, suggesting the prime minister could move the election date and hold the campaign over the October 31 exit day, leaving parliament powerless to stop the UK crashing out of the EU without an agreement.
Jeremy Corbyn told MPs this evening Labour would vote for a a general election as soon as the bill to stop no-deal becomes law. “We want an election. We look forward to turfing this government out,” he said.
But responding to the defeat, Johnson accused Corbyn of wanting to “stop the people from voting”.
And he hinted that he could make another attempt to call an election, urging Labour to reflect on how sustainable it is to keep refusing to go to the polls.
He told the Commons: “I think there is only one solution, I think he has become the first, to my knowledge, the first leader of the opposition in the democratic history of our country to refuse the invitation to an election.
“And I can only speculate as to the reasons behind his hesitation. The obvious conclusion, I’m afraid, is that he does not think he will win.
“I urge his colleagues to reflect on what I think is the sustainability of his position overnight and in the course of the next few days.”
Johnson’s defeat leaves him at the mercy of MPs on Brexit but attention will now turn towards other methods of bringing about an election.
Under the terms of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act vote brought forward by Johnson on Wednesday, two-thirds of MPs must vote for an election for it to take place.
But the government may now pursue other avenues to get a poll – including passing a new law by a simple majority.
Labour meanwhile is debating whether to back a snap poll once the anti-no-deal legislation becomes law, or whether to wait until the Brexit deadline is extended next month to stop Johnson holding an election campaign election campaign over exit day on October 31.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told reporters in Westminster the party was looking at a “range of options” and taking legal advice, including backing an election next week or waiting until next month after a Brexit delay is secured.
“We’re really being absolutely pragmatic and thorough on the legal advice that we’re getting because we’re dealing with an executive that is out of democratic control, that’s the problem,” he said.
Earlier, Johnson told Tory MPs at a meeting of the party’s backbench 1922 Committee that Labour were “cowardly custards” for failing to back an election now, according to one MP.
Shortly afterwards he told the Commons: “The country must now decide whether the leader of the opposition, or I, go to those negotiations in Brussels on October 17 to sort this out.
“Because everybody will know that if [Corbyn] were to be the prime minister he would beg for an extension, he would accept whatever Brussels demands and we would then have years more dither and delay, yet more arguments over Brexit and no resolution to the uncertainty that currently bedevils this country and our economy.”
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