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Boris Johnson news - live: Bid for pre-Christmas election gathers support, as PM holds surprise Brexit meeting with Corbyn

Adam Forrest,Ashley Cowburn
Wednesday 23 October 2019 15:20 BST
Jeremy Corbyn slams Boris Johnson over proposed Brexit deal

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Louise Thomas

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Boris Johnson has been forced to “pause” his Brexit deal legislation after MPs rejected his plans to fast-track his withdrawal agreement bill through the Commons before his “do or die” 31 October deadline.

After surprise talks between Mr Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday, a Labour spokesperson said Mr Corbyn had “restated that Labour will support a general election when the threat of a no deal crash out is off the table.”

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said she would be “very happy” to have a pre-Christmas election. Justice secretary Robert Buckland said an election “seems to me to be the only way to break this impasse”, while his Labour shadow Richard Burgon, asked if the party would help trigger an election once the threat of a Halloween no deal was removed, replied: “Yes.”


Good morning and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of events in Westminster.

Adam Forrest23 October 2019 08:25

Boris Johnson backs down on threat to pull Brexit bill

Boris Johnson has hit “pause” on his Brexit deal legislation after his plans to fast-track his withdrawal agreement bill through the Commons before his “do or die” 31 October deadline hit the buffers.

MPs rejected Johnson’s plan to push through the legislation approving his deal with the EU in just three days by 322 votes to 308 – forcing him to put the bill “in limbo”.

The PM had threatened to “pull” the bill altogether and force a pre-Christmas general election if defeated on the controversial, three-day timetable.

But he backed away from the threat following the result – and appeared to accept that it was now up to the EU to decide what happens next. “We now face further uncertainty and the EU must now make up their minds over how to answer parliament’s request for a delay,” he said.

European Council president Donald Tusk said he would recommend they agree a further delay in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

All the details here.

Adam Forrest23 October 2019 08:26

PM seeking short extension from the EU, say reports

Boris Johnson is reportedly ready to push for an election if EU leaders sanction a Brexit extension of up to three months.

European Council president Donald Tusk said he would recommend they agree a further delay in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The Telegraph reported that Johnson had begun calling EU leaders on Tuesday night to tell them he would not accept a three-month delay, but has reportedly not ruled out approving a short extension of around 10 days to allow his deal to get through parliament.

A No 10 source indicated that if the PM was forced to accept a delay until 31 January 2020 he would push for a general election instead – fearing a longer delay gives the opposition time to amend and wreck his deal. 

“On Saturday parliament asked for a delay until January and today parliament blew its last chance,” the source said.

“If parliament’s delay is agreed by Brussels, then the only way the country can move on is with an election. This parliament is broken.”

According to The Times, Johnson will have a go at persuading French president Emmanuel Macron to veto the three-month thing and offer a much shorter extension to “force the hand” of MPs on his deal. 

One Downing Street source told the BBC: “We have to go to the country.”

Adam Forrest23 October 2019 08:28

Justice secretary says general election could ‘resolve’ crisis

Justice secretary Robert Buckland said there was no guarantee the EU would grant a short extension to pass the PM’s Brexit Bill.

“We do not know precisely, and we have learnt in this particular enterprise that we need to understand precisely what the European side (want),” he told the BBC.

“Do you remember last time when we asked for an extension, the Europeans came back with a totally different date for a set of reasons that was theirs.

“Who is to say that isn’t going to happen again? I can’t look into the mind of my European friends but what I do know, speaking to key people in Europe, is they want this over. It is in their interest to crack on as much as it is ours.”

Asked about the prospects of a general election if the EU grants a three-month extension and the bill struggles in parliament, the justice secretary a poll might be necessary “however cold and inhospitable it might be”.

Asked about an election on Sky News, Buckland said: “If that’s the only way to resolve this then bring it on.”

Adam Forrest23 October 2019 08:49

EU considering three-month extension request

The European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said her body expected to be informed of “the next steps”, but she said European Council president Donald Tusk was now considering the three-month extension officially requested by the prime minister – one of the letters he sent on Saturday night.

Tusk himself said he would recommend an extension to the EU27 group, but did not mention any dates.

Adam Forrest23 October 2019 08:58

Labour frontbencher says party wants general election

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said Labour still wants a general election when a no-deal Brexit is “off the table” and an extension is agreed.

“Labour will be calling for a general election is off the table – because, actually, it’s only a general election that yes can sort out Brexit ... but also sort out these Tory-created crises.

He added: “I would like to see Boris Johnson gone by Christmas.”

Burgon also said he thought the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) would take “a couple of weeks” to debate, not months.

“I don’t think three months will be required to discuss the bill,” he told the BBC. “I would have thought it can be done in a matter of weeks, but it’s not for me to decide. The reality is, what was put forward was completely insufficient.”

Burgon said the government “shouldn’t rely” on the support of the 19 Labour MPs who backed the WAB at its second reading on Tuesday to continue to support it all the way through the legislation process.

He told the BBC: “What the government should be aware of is that, of those 19 colleagues who voted the way they did in support of the Bill in second reading, a number of them made clear that the government shouldn’t rely upon them voting for it in the final vote, the third reading.”

Adam Forrest23 October 2019 09:11

General election before Christmas moves step closer

So far this morning the justice secretary Robert Buckland has said a general election “seems to me to be the only way to break this impasse”, while his Labour shadow Richard Burgon, asked if Jeremy Corbyn would help trigger an election once the Halloween no-deal threat has been removed, replied: “Yes.”

Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick has more on the on a pre-Christmas poll moving a step closer.

Adam Forrest23 October 2019 09:20

Nigel Farage says election needed ‘to get resolution’

Nigel Farage has – perhaps rather predictably – predicted the EU will grant a Brexit delay of “at least” three months and said a general election was now the “only possible route to get some resolution”.

Asked what length of extension he thought the EU would offer, the Brexit Party leader told the BBC: “Obviously what they want is a general election or a second referendum - they want some degree of resolution.

“So I would have thought at least until the end of January, perhaps even longer.”

On an electoral pact, something he has been banging on about for months, he said: “I would work with anybody that wanted to honour the result of the referendum for us to leave the European Union and to leave its institutions and to be an independent country, but right at the moment that looks very unlikely.”

Adam Forrest23 October 2019 09:38

Ken Clarke says No 10 should stop dreaming up ‘illegal ruses’

Father of the House Ken Clarke – in what will be seen as a dig at Boris Johnson’s chief aide Dominic Cummings – said the prime minister should get rid of his staff who come up with “illegal ruses”.

The former chancellor was referring to the suggestion that the PM could use a one-line bill to secure an election, requiring a simple majority rather than sign-off from two-thirds of MPs in the Fixed Term Parliament Act.

Clarke said: “He should get rid of all these people who come up with these clever, usually illegal, ruses.”

The Tory veteran said any such bill was likely to incur a host of amendments, given Johnson does not have a majority.

“People will want to reduce the voting age to 16 for a start but I think a lot of people will be thinking of a lot of other ingenious things they could put in,” the former Tory told the BBC.

“Within scope, you could get in some of the things I would quite like in terms of improving the deal.”

Adam Forrest23 October 2019 09:50

‘Time for cool heads’: Hammond says delay was necessary

Philip Hammond, one of nine independent MPs who voted against their former party on last night’s all-important programme motion, tweeted: “I believe in delivering Brexit. But I also believe in Parliamentary scrutiny.”

Adam Forrest23 October 2019 10:00

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