Brexit: Boris Johnson to call 14 October general election if rebels vote to block no-deal

Prime minister insists that he does not want an early poll

Boris Johnson says there are 'no circumstances' that can delay Brexit beyond October 31st

Boris Johnson will call a general election for 14 October if he loses a crunch vote designed to block a no-deal Brexit in the House of Commons on Tuesday, senior government officials have said.

The source said the prime minister was confident that the election motion would receive the two-thirds majority in the Commons required to trigger an early poll under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

Ministers will table the motion by the end of Tuesday, but it will be moved to a vote on Wednesday only if MPs vote tomorrow to take control of Commons business in order to pass a bill to remove the option of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

Speaking outside No 10 against a backdrop of loud chanting from anti-Brexit protesters, Mr Johnson insisted he did not want an early election. No 10 sources said his gambit was designed to make clear the choice facing MPs when they vote on Tuesday, and confirmed that any Tories failing to back the PM will be stripped of the party whip and barred from fighting the next election for the Conservatives.

The dramatic move came after a rebel alliance of Labour, Liberal Democrats and other opposition parties as well as Tories fighting a no deal, published a bill which would require the PM to seek an extension of Brexit negotiations to the end of January.

Under the terms of the legislation, released under the names of Labour’s Commons Brexit Committee chair Hilary Benn and Tory former minister Alistair Burt, Mr Johnson could only avoid an extension by reaching a deal with Brussels or winning MPs’ support for no-deal by 19 October.

To the fury of Brexiteers, the bill also says that if the EU rejects the new proposed deadline of 31 January, Mr Johnson “must” accept their preferred date unless the Commons rejects it.

Sources close to the rebel alliance said the legislation was crafted to provide Mr Johnson with time to make a genuine attempt to secure and ratify a withdrawal deal, but also to allow sufficient space for litigation in the final weeks of October if he refuses to abide by its terms.

Anti-no deal MPs aim to use an emergency motion on Tuesday, when Westminster returns from its summer break, to seize control of the Commons agenda for the following day in order to force the legislation through both Houses before Mr Johnson suspends sittings next week.

But the PM made it clear he would not comply with their demands, declaring that there were “no circumstances” in which he would ask Brussels to delay Brexit beyond Halloween.

A senior government source declined to say whether Mr Johnson would stand down if his plans were thwarted by MPs, but said: “He is not going to go to Brussels at the behest of parliament to ask for an extension. It is not going to happen – categorically.

“He is not going to do it by email. He is not going to do it by phone call. He is not going to do it by text. He is not going to do it by tweet. This prime minister is very clear that we are leaving on 31 October. That’s what is going to happen and he will take every step to make sure it happens.”

Boris Johnson insists that he does not want a general election: ' I don't want an election, you don't want an election'

Officials said that the 14 October election date had been chosen to allow the victor to attend a crucial EU summit on 17 October at which Mr Johnson hopes to secure a new withdrawal agreement allowing a smooth exit two weeks later. Sherpas will carry on negotiating with Brussels and no-deal preparations will continue through any election campaign period, they said.

But they brushed aside any suggestion of an electoral pact with the Brexit Party, whose leader Nigel Farage made clear he intends to stand candidates against Tories, saying: “We are ready for an election. It’s time for a clean break Brexit.”

The PM said he believed that the chances of a Brexit deal were “rising”, but officials said other EU leaders had made it clear that they would not engage until they were sure that parliament would not rule out a no-deal outcome.

Downing Street’s hopes of securing the necessary two-thirds majority for an election were bolstered when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said earlier in the day that he would back an early poll in any circumstances.

Addressing a Labour rally in Salford, he said: ”I will be delighted when the election comes, I’m ready for it, you’re ready for it, we’re ready for it, we’ll take that message out there and above all we will win.”

Jeremy Corbyn in Glasgow last week

But the party’s former PM Tony Blair urged Mr Corbyn not to fall into the “elephant trap” set by Brexiteers of an election which he predicted would produce a “comfortable” Tory victory.

Mr Johnson did not mention the election plan in his statement following an unscheduled meeting of cabinet ministers in Downing Street.

In it, he said that the chances of a deal were rising because EU leaders now recognised that the UK was ready to leave on Halloween “come what may”.

And he warned that a Commons vote for further delay would “chop the legs out from under the UK position and make any further negotiation absolutely impossible”.

Urging MPs to vote with the government against “Corbyn’s pointless delay”, he said: “I want everybody to know – there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay. We are leaving on 31 October, no ifs or buts.”

But a source close to the so-called “Gaukeward squad” of senior Tories opposed to no deal said: “It’s a bit rich for the prime minister to point the finger at colleagues who plan to defy the party whip – colleagues who voted for a deal three times while he voted with Jeremy Corbyn to inflict the two biggest parliamentary defeats on a government in British history.

“The prime minister seems to be doing everything he can to bring about an election, while claiming it’s the last thing he wants.”

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “(It’s) plainly obvious ... That Johnson has no plan to get a deal. If MPs blink tomorrow, he will drive the UK off the no-deal cliff on 31 October. He must not get away with it.”

And Labour’s Dame Margaret Beckett, a prominent supporter of the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum, said Mr Johnson’s actions betrayed “his fear that he does not have a majority for his scorched-earth Brexit – either in parliament or in the country”.

“He is now trying to force an undemocratic Brexit through parliament by threatening One Nation Conservatives with deselection, hinting at a snap election or even allowing aides to say he might break the law by refusing to obey legislation passed by MPs,” said Dame Margaret.

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