29 Oct 2019

British MPs reject Boris Johnson's election plan

10:19 am on 29 October 2019

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will try again for a 12 December general election after MPs rejected the plan.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the debate on holding an early general election.

Boris Johnson speaking in the debate on holding an early general election. Photo: AFP / PRU

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to get a two-thirds majority to trigger an early election under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, with 299 voting in favour to 70 against - and 434 votes needed to pass.

But Mr Johnson said the government would not allow this "paralysis" to continue.

The prime minister will publish a short piece of legislation seeking the support of the Liberal Democrats and the SNP for an election on 12 December.

This would not be subject to a two-thirds majority and would need only 320 votes to pass.

The Lib Dems and SNP are offering to back an election on Monday, 9 December instead, which they say will prevent any chance of the Mr Johnson's Brexit deal being approved in the short time before Parliament is dissolved.

They have proposed their own short bill and it remains to be seen whether they will support the government's legislation, which the prime minister's office has said will be "almost identical".

Negotiations between the two sides over a compromise date were reportedly taking place in Westminster.

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn Photo: AFP / PRU

In the earlier Commons debate Mr Johnson said "nobody relished" going to the polls weeks before Christmas but this Parliament had "run its course" and was "incapable" of settling Brexit.

The UK was due to leave the European Union on 31 October but the EU granted Britain an extension until 31 January.

The postponement still allows for an earlier departure, if the British parliament approves Boris Johnson's deal for the UK leaving the bloc.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson said Labour was the only main opposition party resisting an early election, telling Mr Corbyn that he "can run but he cannot hide" from the electorate.

In response, Mr Corbyn said he backed an election but only after certain conditions were met - including legal confirmation of the extension and reassurances that students wouldn't be "disenfranchised" by the mid-December date because they had left for the Christmas holidays.

"The reason I am so cautious is that I do not trust the prime minister," he said. "Today he wants an election and his bill - not with our endorsement."

Mr Johnson was required to request an extension to the Brexit date after Parliament failed to agree a Brexit deal. The prime minister had repeatedly said the UK would leave on 31 October deadline with or without a deal, but the law - known as the Benn Act - required him to accept the EU's extension offer.

- BBC / Reuters

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