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Opposition parties will not back Boris Johnson’s attempt to force election

Jeremy Corbyn spoke with other leaders on Monday to agree a move.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson walking a bull (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson walking a bull (Andrew Milligan/PA)

By Sam Blewett, David Hughes and Harriet Line, PA Political Staff

Boris Johnson’s demand for a general election on his own terms became increasingly far-fetched when opposition leaders agreed to not vote with the Prime Minister during his fresh bid.

Jeremy Corbyn spoke with the leaders of the main opposition parties on Friday to discuss their resistance to holding a vote before the prospect of a no-deal Brexit on October 31 is eliminated.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and Plaid Cymru are all understood to be planning on voting against or abstaining from the Fixed-Term Parliament Act when it returns to the Commons on Monday.

A further blow was dealt to the PM when Lords approved the legislation aiming to prevent a no-deal on the Halloween deadline, paving the way for it to become law.

It will mean the Government must ask the EU for an extension to the UK’s departure – a move Mr Johnson has said would be worse than him being “dead in a ditch”.

Opposition leaders including the Lib Dems’ Jo Swinson, the SNP’s Ian Blackford and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts discussed tactics on Friday morning as Mr Johnson returned to the campaign trail of the election he is yet to successfully trigger.

After a torrid week for the PM, he visited Aberdeenshire, and then arrived at the Queen’s Balmoral estate for the traditional September prime ministerial trip.

He was accompanied by his partner Carrie Symonds, and had an audience with the Queen on Friday evening.

Mr Johnson will stay at the castle in Aberdeenshire on Friday night before returning to London on Saturday.

SNP Westminster leader Mr Blackford said he was “desperate for an election”, but it could not be until an extension to Article 50 was secured.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s not just about our own party interests, it’s about our collective national interests.

“So we are prepared to work with others to make sure we get the timing right, but the timing right on the basis of securing that extension to Article 50.”

But he did anticipate that an election would be successfully called “over the course of these weeks”.

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Jeremy Corbyn spoke with opposition leaders (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A Lib Dem spokeswoman said: “As a group we will all vote against or abstain on Monday.”

Ms Saville Roberts said voting for an election next week would “play into Boris Johnson’s hands”, giving the PM the opportunity to ignore Parliament and force through a no-deal.

“We were in unity in our opinion, our priority is of course to stop a no-deal Brexit,” she told the BBC.

“In the short time we need to make sure that we get past the October 31 and an extension to Article 50.”

Labour said the leaders discussed efforts to prevent a “damaging” no-deal Brexit and to hold an election “once that is secured”.

Peers approved the no-deal blocking legislation on Friday afternoon, after MPs including Tory rebels dealt Mr Johnson a major blow in the Commons by backing the Bill earlier in the week.

It is likely to become law on Monday after receiving the formal Royal Assent from the Queen.

The legislation orders the Government to ask for a Brexit delay until January 31 next year if no agreement has been reached by October 19 and MPs do not back a no-deal.

An alternate extension proposed by the European Council must also be accepted by the PM within two days, unless the Commons rejects it.

The developments came a day after the PM suffered a torrid 24 hours in which his brother resigned from Government while describing being torn between family and “the national interest”.

The PM has said he wants polling day to be October 15, but in order to call the snap election he needs a two-thirds majority in the Commons and opposition parties do not trust him to stick to that date.

They also have concerns about whether he will comply with the cross-party legislation passed by Parliament.

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The PM was under heavy fire for using police as a backdrop to a political speech (Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Johnson used a rambling press conference on Thursday to say he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for a further delay.

The following day, during his visit to Scotland, he declined to rule out resigning if he fails to deliver Brexit on the current deadline.

“That is not a hypothesis I’m willing to contemplate. I want us to get this thing done,” Mr Johnson said.

The PM’s problems further piled up when West Yorkshire Police’s chief constable said he was “disappointed” to see officers used as a backdrop to Mr Johnson’s political speech a day earlier.

John Robins added that the force had “no prior knowledge” that officers would be used in any other way than to discuss the Government’s policing recruitment drive.

After visiting Aberdeenshire, Mr Johnson was scheduled to make the traditional prime ministerial trip to the Queen’s Balmoral estate, but the visit will be shorter than expected due to the political turmoil in Westminster.

The PM, expected to be accompanied by partner Carrie Symonds, will stay at the castle on Friday night before returning to London on Saturday.

PA

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