What have Tory rebels voted for and will an election now happen?

Move to block no-deal Brexit leaves government without majority and heading to polls

British prime minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons.  Photograph: PA Wire

British prime minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons. Photograph: PA Wire


What happened?

In brief: a cross-party group of backbench MPs have succeeded in their attempt to take control of the Commons order paper and try to push through a bill seeking an extension to Brexit to at least January 31st, blocking a seemingly likely no-deal departure on October 31st. The speaker John Bercow allowed the motion led by the Tory MP Oliver Letwin, and it was passed by 328 votes to 301.

What happens now?

The bill, signed by MPs including Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Labour’s Hilary Benn, will now be debated, and one plan is to push the bill through all its Commons stages in a single day. It would then move to the Lords, where peers have been trying to clear space for it on Thursday. The rebels’ aim is to secure royal assent – making the bill a law – before parliament is suspended next week.

How has the government responded?

By saying it will seek an election. Boris Johnson said the “only way to resolve this” would be for the government to table a motion under the fixed-term parliaments act 2011, which allows five-year parliaments to be broken if two-thirds of MPs back an election.

Will an election happen, and when?

Yes, even if not straight away, it seems. The two-thirds majority means the government requires Labour votes, and Jeremy Corbyn told MPs his party would only back an election once the bill to block no-deal Brexit completes its passage through the Commons. So any vote on Wednesday would be expected to fail. With the precise date to prorogue parliament still not fixed, the government could allow time for a second attempt, perhaps on Monday. Mooted election dates include October 14th or 15th.

Who rebelled for the Conservatives, and what happens to them?

There were 21 rebels – at the very top end of estimates – including party grandees and ex-ministers Kenneth Clarke, Philip Hammond, David Gauke, Justine Greening and Dominic Grieve. No 10 had promised that any Tories who voted for the motion would immediately lose the party whip and be barred from standing at the next election, and government sources said this would happen. This means the government very much no longer has a majority – and in theory has to select 21 new parliamentary candidates at top speed.

Can the government block or ignore the bill?

The clear majority for the measure to proceed would appear to indicate that it will also pass, and it seems unlikely ministers could find a way to somehow delay it or deny royal assent. Ministers, notably Michael Gove, had hinted the government could simply ignore an instruction to extend Brexit, even one in law. Johnson did tell the Commons this would not happen, but he then stressed he had no intention of seeking an extension, with his aim instead to call and win a general election. – Guardian

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