Boris Johnson set for defeat over no-deal Brexit
PM to push for election if rebels force him to seek Brexit delay
Labour twists the knife in stormy Commons debate
Boris Johnson is heading for a defeat in the House of Commons as up to 20 Tory MPs look set to vote in favour of preventing a no-deal Brexit.
This evening’s vote could allow a cross-party group of MPs, including a swathe of Tory rebels, to hijack the Commons agenda and legislate to block no deal.
Mr Johnson’s last-ditch attempt to win over Conservative plotters failed earlier today after he couldn’t convince them he had made sufficient progress towards achieving a new deal with the EU.
High-profile rebels include former Chancellor Philip Hammond and former Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart.
If the Prime Minister loses the vote on no-deal he will then seek an early general election, rather than asking the EU for a delay.
However it is unclear whether he would receive sufficient support from the two thirds of MPs required to approve a vote.
Labour is threatening to vote against an election until no deal is taken off the table.
Clash in the Commons
The coup against Mr Johnson got off to a dramatic start as MP Philip Lee defected from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats just before the PM started speaking in Parliament.
The loss of Mr Lee means the Prime Minister no longer has a majority in the House of Commons.
After a great deal of thought, I have reached the conclusion that it is no longer possible to serve my constituents’ and country’s best interests as a Conservative Member of Parliament. My letter to the Prime Minister: pic.twitter.com/0QreSbSdwR
— Dr Phillip Lee MP (@DrPhillipLeeMP) September 3, 2019
Mr Johnson weathered a noisy and fractious debate in Parliament.
He was bombarded with criticism from the opposition benches, with hecklers branding his claims of progress in negotiations with the EU a ‘sham’.
The PM begged MPs to give him “the leeway” to secure a new deal and claimed once again he does not want a general election.
He also said his Government would “obey the law” when pressed by opposition MPs, amid concerns he could bulldoze past legislation blocking a no-deal exit.
This came after Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal planning, failed to rule out ignoring legislation to rule out no deal - a move that would amount to a constitutional outrage.
Jeremy Corbyn accused the Prime Minister of having ‘no mandate, no morals and as of today no majority’.
The Labour leader said: “Later today this House has a last chance to stop this Government from riding roughshod over constitutional and democratic rights in this country, so that a cabal in Downing Street can crash us out without a deal, without any democratic mandate and against the majority of public opinion.”
Is there going to be an early general election?
Yesterday it emerged the Prime Minister will push for a mid-October general election if MPs succeed in a bid to seize control of parliamentary proceedings and prevent a no-deal Brexit taking place on October 31.
A Downing Street source confirmed the high-stakes plan, saying the Government’s motion on an early general election would be published before MPs vote on Tuesday so MPs would know the consequences of voting against the whip.
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However Mr Johnson can’t call an early general election unless two thirds of MPs vote to approve it.
While opposition parties would normally be expected to support an election, it is far from clear whether Labour MPs would back it under the current circumstances.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told a rally in Salford last night that he would be “delighted” to fight an election, telling supporters that Labour “will win.”
“I will be delighted when the election comes,” Corbyn said. “I’m ready for it, you’re ready for it – we’ll take that message out there and above all we will win.”
However shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti rowed back on this stance this morning, saying Labour’s support was conditional.
Ms Chakrabarti said Labour would only back an election if they were given a guarantee the election date would not be changed as a ploy to take the UK out of the EU while MPs are not sitting.
Tony Lloyd, shadow Northern Ireland secretary, took a harder stance, telling Newsnight the party would “absolutely” vote against an election: “We don’t want to fight an election that allows Boris Johnson to crash us out [of the EU].”
Former shadow cabinet member Mary Creagh told the same programme: “I think we are all ready for a general election … we aren’t going to agree to one when there is a threat of a no-deal Brexit hanging over the country.”
A Downing Street spokesman denied the PM could shift the date of an election after MPs approve it.
He said: “In short, the idea that polling day could be moved after the event of Parliament being dissolved is simply wrong. It’s not possible.”