Opposition MPs once again thwarted Boris Johnson’s attempts to force an early general election before Brexit, voting down his plans for the second time in the space of a week.
A government motion calling for a ballot, which would have taken place in mid-October, was defeated because it fell short of the two-thirds majority required to call an early election: Only 293 MPs voted for the motion, with 46 against. Johnson needed the support of two-thirds of MPs (at least 434) to trigger an early election.
The opposition think they know better than the people, Boris Johnson says after losing election bid
“I earlier urged the House to trust the people but once again the opposition think they know better,” Boris Johnson said after losing his early election appeal a second time.
“They want to delay Brexit yet again … not only have they refused to choose the way ahead, they have now twice denied the British people their say in an election.”
“Now the House will be suspended until mid-October,” he said and added that he hoped the opposition uses that time “to reflect.”
“No matter how many devices this Parliament invents to tie my hands, I will strive to get an agreement in the national interest … this government will not delay Brexit any further,” he said.
“They cannot hide forever,” Johnson told Corbyn. “The moment will come when the people will finally get their chance to deliver their verdict.”
Opposition parties continued to block Johnson’s plans, fearful he could take the U.K. out of the EU without a deal on October 31 were he to win a majority in the election. They have since said they will not back a national vote until no deal is taken off the table.
The legislation, known as the Benn Act, requires Johnson to ask the EU for an extension to the Article 50 process, delaying Brexit until January 2020 if no agreement with Brussels is in place by October 19. Opposition MPs want to see this extension come into force before backing an election.
Johnson mocked opposition parties ahead of the vote, accusing them of “preposterous cowardice” for avoiding an election. “The only possible explanation is that they fear we will win it,” he said, and claimed they were trying to “protect the British people from the consequences of their own democratic decisions.”
Johnson insisted again that he will not ask for a Brexit delay. It remains to be seen whether Johnson would indeed refuse to do so, even if he risked breaking the law.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he wanted an election but was “not prepared to risk inflicting” what he called “the disaster of no deal” on the country.
The vote against an early election was the last act of the current parliament, which has been suspended early by the queen at the request of Johnson’s government. MPs will not convene again until October 14, when a queen’s speech will be held to open a new session of parliament.
An election is still considered highly likely following parliament’s return, but due to the required length of an election campaign cannot now take place till November.
Parliament is now officially prorogued
The prorogation ceremony is now complete — and Britain’s Parliament has been suspended until October 14.
It brings to an end one of the longest sessions in Parliament’s history, which has still failed to produce a path forward for Brexit.