British parliament to vote on general election on Monday

Johnson calls for election on December 12th to break Britain’s divisive Brexit impasse

Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson says that he is asking parliament to approve a national election to take place on December 12th as part of his efforts to ensure Britain leaves the European Union. Video: Reuters

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for a general election on December 12th to break Britain’s Brexit impasse, conceding for the first time he will not meet his “do or die” deadline to leave the European Union next week.

Moroever, the Government has also cancelled chancellor Sajid Javid’s budget planned for November 6th. “Parliament has voted for a delay. We’re calling for an election, so we won’t be delivering the Budget on November 6th,” said a Treasury source.

Mr Johnson said in a letter to opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn he would give parliament more time to approve his Brexit deal but that politicians must back a December election. It will be his third attempt to try to force a snap election.

Just a week before Britain was due to leave the European Union, the EU looks set to grant it an extension to the Brexit deadline, something Mr Johnson has repeatedly said he does not want but was forced to request by the country’s divided parliament.

An election is seen by his team as the only way of breaking the deadlock over Brexit after parliament voted in favour of his deal, but then, just minutes later, rejected his preferred timetable which would have met his October 31st deadline.

The Labour Party has repeatedly said it will only back an election when it is sure that Mr Johnson cannot lead Britain out of the EU without a deal.

“This parliament has refused to take decisions. It cannot refuse to let the voters replace it with a new parliament that can make decisions,” Mr Johnson wrote to Corbyn.

“Prolonging this paralysis into 2020 would have dangerous consequences for businesses, jobs and for basic confidence in democratic institutions, already badly damaged by the behaviour of parliament since the referendum. Parliament cannot continue to hold the country hostage.”

In parliament after the government announced the new vote on an election for Monday, Labour’s parliamentary business manager Valerie Vaz did not say whether the party would back the move, saying only it would wait to see what the EU says about a delay on Friday.

‘Dead in a ditch’

More than three years after voting to be the first sovereign country to leave the EU, the future of Brexit is as unclear as ever with Britain still debating when, how or even whether it should go ahead.

Last month, Mr Johnson said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for a delay.

But several of his aides think he can weather any criticism for failing to meet the deadline at an election by arguing he was thwarted by politicians and pitting the “people versus the parliament”.

At a meeting of his cabinet, some media reported there was disagreement over whether the government should try for an early election, fearing that going to the polls before Brexit was settled might damage the party.

But Mr Johnson seems to still hold out hope of securing a deal with Brussels, offering parliament until November 6th to ratify an agreement he settled with the EU last week.

“This means that we could get Brexit done before the election on 12 December, if MPs choose to do so,” he said.

Labour has long said it cannot back an election until a no-deal Brexit is off the table. But if the EU grants an extension until the end of January, that would appear to remove the threat of Mr Johnson taking Britain out without an agreement.

Extension

Earlier, a senior Downing Street source said Britain would ultimately leave the EU with Mr Johnson’s deal despite the likely additional delay, with the EU considering offering London a three-month flexible Brexit extension.

“This ends with us leaving with the PM’s deal,” said the Downing Street source.

All eyes are now on not whether, but by how long, the EU decides to extend the Brexit process: Berlin supports a three-month delay, while Paris is pushing for a shorter one.

While German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron appear to be fatigued by Brexit, they fear a no-deal exit that would almost certainly hurt global growth, roil financial markets and create a potentially deeper EU crisis.

To offer Britain a long extension would take the pressure off British politicians to approve Mr Johnson’s deal and open up possibilities such as a referendum on it. A short extension might focus minds in the British parliament.

Brexit was initially supposed to have taken place on March 29th but Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was forced to delay twice as parliament defeated her Brexit deal.

Mr Johnson was forced by parliament on Saturday to send a letter to European Council president Donald Tusk requesting a delay until January 31st. He did so reluctantly, sending an unsigned photocopied note, but the correspondence was accepted.

“Our policy remains that we should not delay,” Mr Johnson told parliament on Tuesday after it defeated his extremely tight legislative timetable for ratifying the deal he clinched in Brussels a week ago. – Reuters

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