The chances of an election before the UK leaves the EU are rapidly receding but the political and constitutional battle between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and parliamentarians is set to continue to intensify.
Boris Johnson is expected on Monday (9 September) to table a second motion to force a snap election on October 15, having failed with a similar motion on Wednesday. However, he will require a two thirds majority in favour and there is little sign that the result will be any different.
During a conference call on Friday (6 September), the leaders of the opposition parties: Labour, Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens agreed that they would not agree to back a poll until a no deal Brexit in October had been guaranteed.
“Any election before 31 October runs the risk of us crashing out of the European Union and that would be completely irresponsible,” said Tom Brake, Brexit spokesman for the pro-European Liberal Democrats, following the meeting of opposition parties on Friday.
“If [Johnson] chooses to disobey the law, and not follow what parliament has required him to do, then we have agreed that we will take all necessary action to enforce that,” added Brake.
Meanwhile, Johnson suffered another embarrassing resignation when Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd quit his government and the Conservative party on Saturday evening, stating that it was making little effort to secure a Brexit deal with the EU.
“There is no evidence of the deal. There is no formal negotiation taking place. There are just a lot of conversations,” said Rudd on Sunday.
Rudd’s resignation ended a tumultuous week in UK politics which began with Johnson attempting to force his opponents’ hands by proroguing Parliament until October 14, just days before the EU summit. The Prime Minister expected that opposition parties would agree to hold an election.
The Bill requiring the Prime Minister to request a three month extension to the Article 50 process at the European Council summit on October 17 passed the House of Lords on Friday afternoon (6 September) and will become law before the Parliament is suspended for five weeks from Monday evening.
While the Prime Minister appears to have lost control of events, the opposition parties are weighing up a series of options including whether to vote for an election a day after the Queen’s Speech on October 14 or after the EU summit on 17-18 October.
Another option for the opposition parties could be to use a no confidence motion to try to bring down Johnson’s government and replace it with a caretaker ‘national unity’ administration.
But it is unclear whether Johnson will make the extension request or if an EU member state will veto it.
In a sign of the frustration felt in Brussels and European capitals, French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, described the impasse as “very worrying” and hinted that agreeing a new extension was far from assured.
“We are not going to do this every three months,” he said.
In March and April, former Prime Minister Theresa May requested, and was granted, two extensions to the Brexit talks to avoid a no deal scenario.
However, during a visit to Scotland on Friday, Johnson repeated that he had no intention of making the extension request to EU leaders for a “pointless delay”, telling reporters that he would instead secure a Brexit deal at the summit by using his “powers of persuasion”.