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PM plans fourth bid for an election after defeat in Commons

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the election debate ahead of the vote in the House of Commons yesterday
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the election debate ahead of the vote in the House of Commons yesterday

By Gavin Cordon and Harriet Line

Boris Johnson is to push on with his effort to secure a pre-Christmas general election after MPs rejected his third attempt to go to the country.

The Prime Minister failed to get the two-thirds majority he needed to secure an election on December 12 under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (FTPA).

However, Mr Johnson said he would now come back with a "short" Bill setting aside the provisions of the FTPA which would require just a simple majority.

He said he would continue to press for a December 12 polling day, even though the Liberal Democrats and SNP suggested they could support a slightly earlier date of December 9.

Following the vote - which saw the government fall 135 votes short of the 434 needed - Mr Johnson told MPs they had to end the deadlock over Brexit.

"We will not allow this paralysis to continue," he said.

The DUP did not support the government's call and abstained.

Meanwhile, independent unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon voted against the motion.

During the debate DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the Prime Minister had "broken his promises" and that he would not back his motion for a December 12 general election.

Mr Wilson told MPs: "We will not be supporting this motion tonight, but not because we're scared of the electorate.

"In fact, I can tell the electorate, the unionist electorate in Northern Ireland, are so angry, so despairing, so bewildered at the way in which the Prime Minister has broken his promises to people of Northern Ireland that they would return 100 DUP MPs if they had the option."

He added: "While we want to see Brexit, if it's not going to be delivered for the whole of the United Kingdom then I don't think anyone in this House could possibly condemn us for standing up for our constituents."

Mr Wilson said: "We are not wreckers, we do not want to see the United Kingdom ungovernable."

Earlier EU leaders confirmed that they would extend Britain's withdrawal date to January 31, in line with the request the Prime Minister was forced to make under the terms of the Benn Act.

With no overall Commons majority, Mr Johnson will still need the votes of some opposition MPs if he is to get the Bill - which will get its second reading Commons debate today - through Parliament.

Following the vote, Jeremy Corbyn said Labour - who abstained on the FTPA motion - would want to scrutinise whatever the government put forward.

He said it had to be clear that the government could not force through a no-deal Brexit against the wishes of Parliament.

"We look forward to a clear, definitive decision that no-deal is absolutely off the table and there is no danger of this Prime Minister not sticking to his word because he has some form on these matters," he said.

However, with Labour MPs fiercely opposed to an election, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald later indicated they were unlikely to change their position and back the government.

"I think it's very unwise to be having a general election in the run-up to Christmas," he told Sky News.

While the Lib Dems did not rule out backing the government, party leader Jo Swinson indicated that they would not accept the proposed December 12 election day.

The party joined with the SNP over the weekend in suggesting they would table a Bill for a December 9 election.

Ms Swinson said: "If Boris Johnson wants a general election, then he could have supported our Bill for a general election on December 9.

"Instead, he has chosen to stick to his original plan for December 12 which we have already rejected."

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford said they would need a "cast-iron guarantee" that the Prime Minister would not try to bring back his Brexit deal to Parliament.

He told MPs: "It is clear that there is a desire on the Opposition benches to bring forward a Bill that can give us an election. But we don't trust this Prime Minister and we don't trust this Prime Minister for good reason.

"So the Prime Minister, if he is going to bring forward a Bill, must give an absolute cast-iron assurance that up until the passage of that Bill and the rising of Parliament, that there will be no attempt to bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB)."

Government sources confirmed ministers did not intend to bring back the WAB, which was put on hold last week after Mr Johnson failed in his attempt to fast-track it through the Commons in just three days.

However, they suggested the proposed Lib Dem-SNP timetable - which would mean Parliament would have to be dissolved at one minute past midnight on Friday morning, was simply too tight to deliver.

A No 10 source said: "We are laying a one-clause motion to amend the FTPA and call an election with the named day of December 12.

"The Bill is very similar to the Lib Dem-SNP Bill. The WAB will not be put back.

"This is the way to get Brexit done so the country can move on."

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