PM plans fourth bid for December election to ‘replace dysfunctional parliament’

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Boris Johnson has launched a fourth bid for a pre-Christmas general election after his third attempt to take the UK to the polls was defeated in the House of Commons.

MPs voted by 299 to 70 on Monday night in favour of the prime minister’s demand for an election on 12 December.

But this was below the required threshold of 434 votes (two thirds of all 650 MPs).

Jeremy Corbyn Pic: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
Image: Jeremy Corbyn ordered Labour MPs to abstain Pic: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Labour again opposed Mr Johnson’s call for an election, with party leader Jeremy Corbyn ordering his MPs to abstain on the vote.

Yet, despite the PM’s third defeat, a pre-Christmas election is still a real prospect.

After his latest push for an election failed, Mr Johnson revealed he will present legislation to parliament today in a new attempt to get MPs to back a 12 December election.

By tabling a short bill to amend the 2011 Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, the PM would only need a simple majority of MPs to support an election, rather than the current 434 votes.

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He wants MPs to pass the bill in a single day and the government has promised not to bring the PM’s Brexit deal back to the Commons as it concentrates on securing an election.

The plan for a short election bill comes after a joint Liberal Democrat and SNP proposal unveiled at the weekend.

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Earlier in the day, Mr Johnson formally accepted a three-month Brexit delay – to 31 January – from the EU, which saw him abandon his “do or die” pledge to take the UK out of the EU on Halloween.

“I will not allow this paralysis to continue and, one way or another, we must proceed straight to an election,” Mr Johnson told MPs.

After his latest Commons defeat on Monday night, he added: “This House cannot any longer keep this country hostage.

“Millions of families and businesses cannot plan for the future and I don’t believe that this paralysis and this stagnation should be allowed to continue.

“Now that no-deal [Brexit] is off the table, we have a great new deal.

“It’s time for the voters to have a chance to pronounce on that deal and to replace this dysfunctional parliament with a new parliament that can get Brexit done so the country can move on.”

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Mr Corbyn said Labour would “scrutinise” the PM’s election bill, suggesting he could swing his party’s support behind a December election.

“We look forward to a clear, definitive decision that no-deal is absolutely off the table,” he told MPs.

“And there is no danger of this prime minister not sticking to his word – because he has some form on these matters – and taking this country out of the EU without any deal whatsoever, knowing the damage it will do to jobs and industries.”

However, the Labour leader had earlier expressed concerns about a 12 December election, including the impact on people’s Christmas preparations, the dark evenings of a winter poll, and whether students will have already finished their term and gone home.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford suggested his party would support a 12 December election, only if there is an “absolute cast-iron assurance” the PM won’t try and get his Brexit deal through parliament before that poll.

But Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson told the government they needed to be “listening” over the date of a December election, with her party and the SNP having previously proposed a 9 December poll.

She told Sky News she did not trust the PM not to bring his Brexit deal back to the Commons before the dissolution of parliament for an election.

“They need to be listening – they say they want a general election and then they come forward not having changed their plans at all,” Ms Swinson said.

“If the election is on 9 December, the House of Commons would discuss this bill and then dissolve this week.

“There wouldn’t be any time for the government to try to force through their Brexit deal bill.”

Jo Swinson Pic: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
Image: Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson proposed a 9 December election. Pic: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Lib Dem and Labour opposition to a 12 December poll raises the prospect of the government either attempting to plough on with its plans while relying on SNP votes, or negotiating with opposition parties on an election date.

MPs are expected to be asked to vote for a general election under the PM’s short bill at the second reading of the legislation later today.

Boris Johnson's letter to Donald Tusk accepting a three-month Brexit delay
Image: The PM’s letter to Donald Tusk accepting a three-month Brexit delay
Boris Johnson's letter to Donald Tusk accepting a three-month Brexit delay

Earlier on Monday, European Council President Donald Tusk announced the EU has agreed to delay Brexit until 31 January 2020 at the latest.

The UK will be able leave the EU earlier than that date, if a Brexit deal is passed by parliament, with Mr Johnson writing to Mr Tusk on Monday afternoon to accept the three-month extension to the Article 50 negotiating period.

The prime minister said the delay had been “imposed” on him and urged the bloc not to grant another extension beyond 31 January.

He wrote: “I must make clear my view that this unwanted prolongation of the UK’s membership of the EU is damaging to our democracy and to the relationship between us and our European friends.”

Mr Johnson added: “I would also urge EU member states to make clear that a further extension after 31 January is not possible.”

Formal confirmation of the new Brexit deadline is expected to come from Brussels today or Wednesday.

The prime minister’s spokesman revealed the government’s “Get Ready for Brexit” advertising ahead of 31 October had now been paused.

Sky News understands Operation Yellowhammer preparations for a no-deal Brexit have also been stood down.

Boris Johnson fails with third attempt for pre-Christmas election

Politics reporter @GregHeffer Boris Johnson has seen MPs oppose his call for an early general election for a third time – which is expected to lead to him making an immediate fourth attempt tomorrow. The prime minister saw MPs vote by 299 to 70 on Monday night in favour of his demand for the UK to go to the polls on 12 December.

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