Europe

Boris Johnson loses second attempt to force snap election

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British MPs have voted against an early election in a new blow for Boris Johnson.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday he would not request an extension to Brexit, hours after a law came into force demanding that he delay Britain’s departure from the European Union until 2020 unless he can strike a divorce deal.

For the second time in a week, lawmakers rejected Johnson’s request to try and break the deadlock through an early national election. Parliament is now due to be suspended until October 14.

Mr Johnson appeared to have lost control of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union with the approval of the law, which obliges him to seek a delay unless he can strike a new deal at an EU summit next month.

EU leaders have repeatedly said they have not received specific proposals ahead of an EU summit on October 17 and 18, at which Mr Johnson hopes he can secure a deal.

“This government will press on with negotiating a deal, while preparing to leave without one,” Johnson told parliament after the result of the vote on an early election.

“I will go to that crucial summit on October the 17th and no matter how many devices this parliament invents to tie my hands, I will strive to get an agreement in the national interest ... This government will not delay Brexit any further.”

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party was eager for an election, but would not support Johnson’s move to hold one until it was certain a delay to Brexit had been secured.

“As keen as we are, we are not prepared to risk inflicting the disaster of no-deal on our communities,” Mr Corbyn said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate of a motion calling by the government for motion to force an early election in the House of Commons
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate of a motion calling by the government for motion to force an early election in the House of Commons.
AAP

Earlier, British MPs voted to demand Prime Minister Boris Johnson release confidential documents relating to Britain's EU exit, during a final day of defiance before he suspends their session until just weeks before Brexit.

MPs voted by 311 to 302 for a motion by a rebel Conservative MP demanding the government publish all documents relating to Operation Yellowhammer, the effort to prepare for a "no-deal" Brexit.

The House of Commons vote came after a stormy week in which MPs passed a law undermining Mr Johnson's threat to leave the European Union on 31 October without having first agreed on a deal with Brussels.

People protest the decision to prorogue parliament.
People protest the decision to prorogue parliament.
AAP

In yet another day of drama in Westminster, House of Commons speaker John Bercow announced he would be stepping down by 31 October at the latest.

Mr Johnson took office in July promising to deliver on the 2016 referendum vote for Brexit, even if that means leaving without exit terms agreed with Brussels. 

Many MPs are deeply opposed to Mr Johnson's threat to end Britain's 46-year-old membership of the EU at the end of next month without agreeing on any new arrangements.

In Monday's vote, MPs also asked the government to publish communications, including WhatsApp messages and private emails, from certain advisers relating to Mr Johnson's decision to suspend parliament for five weeks.

The motion is not legally binding but is politically difficult to ignore.

The PM says the so-called prorogation is a routine move to allow his premiership, which only began in July, to start afresh with a new legislative programme.

But MPs see it as an attempt to silence them in the run-up to Brexit and believe documents will prove it.

Government minister Michael Gove warned their "desire to rifle through private correspondences of advisers is to set aside legal precedent and the rights of citizens".

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Monday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Monday.
Getty

'Downgrade parliament at our peril'

Britons voted in June 2016 to leave the EU but after three years of political wrangling, parliament still cannot decide how to implement the decision.

Mr Johnson says he is working to revise the deal agreed by his predecessor, Theresa May, which MPs rejected -- but insists Brexit must happen next month no matter what.

However, he has no majority in the House of Commons, having expelled 21 MPs from his own Conservative party last week for voting for the rebel legislation.

The bill, which became law Monday, would force Mr Johnson to delay Brexit to January or even later if he cannot get a deal with Brussels at a crucial EU summit on October 17-18 - or persuade MPs to back no deal.

In response, the premier called a snap election for early next month, but MPs refused to support him - and a second attempt later on Monday also looks doomed as it is opposed by opposition leaders.

The turmoil deepened when Mr Bercow announced that he will step down by October 31 at the latest - with a few shots aimed at the government in his speech.

"We degrade this parliament at our peril," he warned MPs , to a sustained standing ovation from largely opposition MPs.

Eurosceptics dislike Mr Bercow for perceived anti-Brexit bias, but he has been praised by supporters for sticking up for parliament's right to have a say in the tortuous Brexit process.

He fought back tears as he thanked his wife and children for their support.

'Significant gaps remain'

Mr Johnson had earlier visited Dublin for talks with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar, a key player in the search for a Brexit deal.

MPs rejected the current agreement three times earlier this year, in large part because of its provisions to keep open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

Mr Johnson wants to scrap the so-called "backstop" plan, which would keep Britain aligned to EU trade rules long after Brexit to avoid any checks at the frontier.

But the EU accuses him of offering no alternative.

"Common ground was established in some areas although significant gaps remain," the two leaders said in a joint statement following an hour of talks.

With Reuters, AFP...

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