- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was dealt a major blow to his authority when MPs voted on Wednesday to make a no-deal Brexit illegal.
- After MPs voted on Tuesday to seize control of Parliament’s agenda, the House of Commons on Wednesday approved a plan that would force Johnson to seek a Brexit extension rather than leave the European Union on October 31.
- Johnson will now ask Parliament to vote for a general election in October, but the opposition Labour Party is set to reject the plan.
- Here’s everything else you need to know.
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LONDON – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a fresh blow to his authority on Wednesday evening after MPs and a handful of Conservative rebels approved a bill that would delay Brexit until at least 2020.
Twenty-one former Conservative MPs, who were expelled from the party on Tuesday, joined forces with Labour and other opposition parties to vote for a plan to prevent Johnson from taking Britain out of the European Union with no deal on October 31.
In response, Johnson confirmed that he would ask MPs to approve an early general election on October 15 as a means of breaking the parliamentary deadlock, but Labour is set to vote against the plan until the no-deal legislation has been formally adopted.
What has happened?
Foto: sourceUK Parliament / Jessica Taylor
MPs in the House of Commons – the elected chamber – have approved the legislation, tabled in the name of Labour MP Hillary Benn, but it still needs to be approved by the House of Lords.
Bills are the mechanism by which important legislation enters the UK statute books. Usually, these take weeks to be approved by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but this process will need to happen in the space of just a few days.
That is because Boris Johnson plans to suspend Parliament starting next week, a move apparently designed to prevent members of parliament from trying to delay Brexit.
What happens next?
The bill will pass to the House of Lords, which still needs to approve the bill. After that, it will receive Royal Assent and pass into the statute books.
Approval shouldn’t, in theory, be a problem – the UK’s upper chamber plays the important function of scrutinising new laws but generally approves legislation that has been passed in the elected House of Commons.
However, there are Brexit-supporting peers in the Lords who will attempt to filibuster the legislation. That means they could try and introduce a large number of amendments to the bill and insist they are voted on to delay the bill’s passage.
Conservative peers have tabled more than 85 amendments in a mass attempt to disrupt the bill’s progress, while Labour colleagues have tried to ensure that attempts to filibuster the legislation are blocked by saying the legislation needs to be dealt with.
The bill is likely to be passed on Friday, at which point it will pass back to the House of Commons where it will receive approval early next week.
How will Boris Johnson react?
The government will table a motion on Wednesday evening asking MPs to approve the election plan.
Johnson has insisted there are “no circumstances” under which he will ask for Brexit to be delayed, with aides insisting that he is being forced into a general election.
“If Conservative MPs help him to make no deal illegal tomorrow and therefore create another pointless delay, the government’s negotiating position will be wrecked,” a senior government official said on Monday.
“In those circumstances, what MPs will effectively be voting for is to hold a rapid election.”
Downing Street will first seek an election by bringing forward a motion for an early general election under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. Under the terms of the law, two-thirds of MPs – that is, 434 – would need to support the prime minister’s plan.
The problem for Johnson is that Labour is likely to reject the plan this evening, insisting that they will not support such a motion until the no-deal legislation has passed into the statute books.
A Downing Street source said on Wednesday that, if that happened, the government will simply hold the same vote again early next week, when the Benn bill has passed into law.