Brexit: Boris Johnson tables election motion - but Jeremy Corbyn says no-deal must be taken off table first

‘MPs who believe in the national interest have stood up to strike a first crucial blow to defend democracy’

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 03 September 2019 15:26
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Jeremy Corbyn says Labour will back an election once a no-deal Brexit is ruled out in law

The government is tabling a motion for a general election in the wake of a humiliating Commons defeat on Boris Johnson’s strategy of putting Britain on course to crash out of the EU.

The prime minister said he would put forward the motion, which must win the support of two-thirds of the Commons in order to trigger a poll, after rebel Tories defied his threat to throw them out of the party and united with opposition MPs to seize control of Commons business, paving the way for a vote tomorrow on a bill that would outlaw a no-deal Brexit.

However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that in order for Labour to back the government motion, which would see the UK hold its third general election in the space of five years, tomorrow’s bill would first have to become law.

Labour fear that when the election is called Mr Johnson may simply move the date beyond October 31, the date Britain is due to leave the EU, which – given that there is little sign of his administration striking a deal with the bloc – would cause a no-deal exit by default.

“The leader of the opposition has been begging for an election for two years,” Mr Johnson told the Commons immediately after losing the vote.

“He has thousands of supporters outside calling for an election. I don’t want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop negotiations and to compel another pointless delay to Brexit potentially for years then that would be the only way to resolve this.

“I can confirm that we are tonight tabling a motion under the Fixed Term Parliament Act.”

Mr Corbyn responded that while Mr Johnson was free to table a motion for a general election, his party would not back it while no-deal remained as an option.

He said the government must “get the bill through first in order to take no-deal off the table”.

“We do not have a presidency, we have a Prime Minister who governs with the consensus of the House of Commons representing the people within whom the sovereignty rests,” he said.

“There is no majority to leave without a deal within the country”.

Mr Corbyn called on Mr Johnson to put his Brexit plan to the people.

Speaking earlier after a meeting of so-called ‘rebel alliance’ MPs, Mr Corbyn said he “fully expects” that cross-party legislation to prevent no-deal will clear the Commons on Wednesday and become law shortly afterwards. Labour has tabled a motion in the House of Lords which would allow peers to complete the bill’s remaining stages by Friday.

(EPA

“Labour wants to prevent a no-deal Brexit, and to have a general election, so we can end austerity and invest in our communities. I am confident we can have both, and we’ve been in discussions about a way to achieve this,” he said.

The rebel bill, which will be tabled tomorrow by Labour’s Hilary Benn and Conservative Alistair Burt, requires Mr Johnson to seek an extension to Brexit negotiations to 31 January unless he secures either a deal or parliamentary support for no-deal by 19 October.

Sam Gyimah, one of the Conservative rebels, said: “Tonight, MPs who believe in the national interest have stood up to strike a first crucial blow to defend democracy.

“It means Boris Johnson will find it harder to bypass Parliament to impose his undemocratic Brexit on the British people.

“No-one believes the Government is serious about negotiating a deal.

“No-one trusts Boris Johnson over the date of the election or his motives for trying to call one now.

“The only legitimate way to solve this Brexit crisis is not to trust Boris Johnson but to trust the people in a Final Say referendum.”

Press Association contributed to this report

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