Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday (24 October) abandoned his promise to take the UK out of the European Union at the end of October and instead set out new plans to force a general election on 12 December.
Johnson will table a motion for an election that will be voted on Monday. In return for supporting it, lawmakers would be given two weeks to amend and ratify his Brexit Withdrawal Bill before a poll.
“The way to get Brexit done is, I think, to be reasonable with parliament and say if they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal, they can have it, but they have to agree to a general election on 12 December,” the prime minister told the BBC.
In a letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Johnson conceded that EU leaders were likely to grant the extension to the Brexit talks which he was forced by lawmakers to request last weekend.
He also acknowledged that the UK would not leave the EU on 31 October as he has repeatedly promised, though he noted that a “shorter delay” setting the new date to either mid or late November could still be offered.
He added that if his Conservative party won a majority, it would immediately move to ratify the Withdrawal Bill.
The government has also shelved plans to table on 6 November the budget for 2020, which had been earmarked by Finance Minister Sajid Javid as the UK’s first ‘post-Brexit’ budget.
Calling a snap election will require a two-thirds of MPs to vote for it. That currently appears unlikely after the Labour party instructed its MPs to abstain on the motion.
However, Corbyn stoked further confusion by then telling reporters the party would support an election once a no-deal Brexit would have been ruled out, and would make a decision once the EU had made a decision on the terms of an extension.
Both the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats have signalled that they will not back the motion.
“He has missed his do-or-die deadline and is now demanding that parliament give him a general election and the time to ram through his bill without proper scrutiny,” said Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson.
“The Liberal Democrats will not support any election until it is clear that we can avoid crashing out with no deal, and that needs an extension from the EU,” added Swinson.
The new election threat is Johnson’s latest attempt to break the impasse in which he is unable to pass his Withdrawal Agreement and other controversial legislation but pro-Remain forces cannot get the numbers to call a second referendum.
It also creates more confusion ahead of a meeting of EU ambassadors on Friday, which had been set to rubberstamp a three-month extension.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]