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Johnson wants snap general election if bid to block no-deal Brexit succeeds

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will seek an October 14 general election if a cross-party bid to seize control of Commons business succeeds.

Boris Johnson says he will not extend Article 50 (Victoria Jones/PA)
Boris Johnson says he will not extend Article 50 (Victoria Jones/PA)

By David Hughes, Political Editor and Josh Thomas, Parliamentary Reporter, PA

The UK could be heading for another general election if MPs back a bid to block a no-deal Brexit on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted “I don’t want an election, you don’t want an election” but he said he would not seek an extension to the Brexit deadline – which is what a cross-party alliance are demanding if there is not a deal.

A senior Government source said Mr Johnson would request a general election on October 14 if MPs back the cross-party move to seize control of Commons business on Tuesday.

A motion for the early election will be tabled by the Government which would require the support of two-thirds of MPs under the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FTPA).

The Government source said MPs will face a “simple choice” tomorrow.

The source said the vote would be treated as though it is a vote of no confidence, and that any Conservative MP voting against the Government would have the whip removed from them.

The source said: “If they vote tomorrow to wreck the negotiation process, to go against giving Britain the ability to negotiate a deal, then they’ll also have to reflect on what comes next.”

October 14 was the date scheduled for the Queen’s Speech under Mr Johnson’s controversial plan to suspend Parliament for up to five weeks.

The Government source said the motion on an early election would be published before MPs vote on Tuesday so they would know the consequences of their actions.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted he did not want an election but allies made clear he would go to the country if MPs seek to block a no-deal Brexit (Victoria Jones/PA)

“If MPs were to vote tomorrow to take control of the order paper, so destroy the Government’s negotiating position, to make it impossible for the UK to negotiate a deal with Brussels, then the vote would then move to an FTPA vote, which I would expect to bring about a general election,” the source said.

“I think if you were to have any chance of securing a deal, which the PM has been very clear that he wants the deal, you would want to have that election on October 14 so that you can go to European Council and secure a deal.”

The European Council summit meeting of EU leaders on October 17 is seen as the last chance to achieve an agreement before the October 31 deadline.

Confirmation that Mr Johnson would seek an election rather than risk another delay to Brexit came after he used a statement in Downing Street to plead with would-be rebels not to join Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in backing a “pointless” extension to the process.

Mr Johnson had to contend with the noise of protesters at the gates of Downing Street as he delivered his statement.

The Prime Minister claimed the chances of a Brexit deal are rising and he was “encouraged by the progress we are making” with Brussels.

But if MPs voted against the Government and backed the cross-party Bill they would “chop the legs out from under the UK position”.

“I say, to show our friends in Brussels that we are united in our purpose, MPs should vote with the Government against Corbyn’s pointless delay,” Mr Johnson said.

“I want everybody to know there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay. We are leaving on October 31, no ifs or buts.”

Former chancellor Philip Hammond and ex-justice secretary David Gauke are among the senior Tories who have put their name to cross-party legislation which the group hopes to push through the Commons this week.

If MPs agree on Tuesday to allow the cross-party group to seize control of Commons business, the legislation will be considered the following day.

Under the terms of the proposed law, the Government must seek a delay to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU until January 31, 2020 if there is no agreement with Brussels in place by October 19 and Parliament has not approved a no-deal Brexit.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said it could be Parliament’s “last chance” to stop a “reckless and damaging” no-deal Brexit.

The Prime Minister’s statement came as Tory MPs enjoyed a reception in the gardens of Downing Street – after being ordered to hand in their phones.

Earlier, Mr Johnson was accused of “goading” some Tory MPs to rebel so he can force a snap general election having ejected opponents of a no-deal Brexit from the party.

“I think they seem to be quite prepared for there to be a rebellion, then to purge those who support the rebellion from the party,” Mr Gauke told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

Labour leader Mr Corbyn, who called a meeting of his shadow cabinet in Salford to discuss tactics, said: “First we must come together to stop no-deal – this week could be our last chance.

“We are working with other parties to do everything necessary to pull our country back from the brink. Then we need a general election.”

He will be joined by other opposition leaders in Westminster – including the SNP’s Ian Blackford and Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson – for further talks about their approach on Tuesday.

PA

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