Brexit: PM to try again for 12 December election after MPs reject plan

Boris Johnson is to try again for a 12 December general election – despite MPs rejecting his plan.

The prime minister will now publish a bill that would only need a simple majority to pass – not two thirds as required in previous attempts.

But he would still need support from Lib Dems and the SNP for it to pass.

Mr Johnson told MPs Parliament was “dysfunctional” and could “no longer keep this country hostage” but Labour said the PM could not be trusted.

The government has “stood down” its Operation Yellowhammer contingency planning for a no-deal exit after the PM officially accepted the EU’s offer of an extension to the Brexit process to 31 January.

In a letter to EU officials, Mr Johnson said the further three-month delay – which he insists was forced upon him by Parliament – was “unwanted”.

This means the UK will not now leave the EU later this week, a promise Mr Johnson had repeatedly made since he became prime minister.

The Commons backed the government’s election motion by 299 to 70 – well short of the two-thirds majority needed under the Fixed-Term Parliament Act.

All Conservative MPs backed the motion – but the vast majority of Labour MPs abstained.

Mr Johnson said he would persist with his efforts to get an early election, telling MPs that “one way or another” the current deadlock had to be broken.

‘Very similar’

The new legislation he is proposing would require a lower threshold for approval and, crucially, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have indicated they might be prepared to support it.

However, there are arguments over the date.

The Lib Dems and SNP want Monday, 9 December, which they say will prevent any chance of the prime minister’s Brexit deal being approved before Parliament is dissolved.

Parliament has to be dissolved a minimum of 25 working days before the date of an election to allow sufficient preparations to take place.

The government has said it will not try to resurrect the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – aimed at Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal into law – bill before Parliament is dissolved for an election.

But No 10 is holding firm on the 12 December date, arguing it would be very difficult for an election bill to pass through both the Commons and the Lords, and receive Royal Assent by 00:01 on Friday in order to meet the 9 December deadline.

A No 10 source said the government’s bill would be “very similar” to the proposed by the Lib Dems and the SNP – but with the 12 December election date enshrined in law to reassure those who worry the PM could change his mind.

‘Bewildered’

Negotiations between the two sides over a compromise are reportedly taking place in Westminster, although Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has said, as it stands, she will not agree to the 12 December date.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he did not “trust” the PM and he wanted reassurances that Mr Johnson would not try to bring back his Brexit agreement – in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – before dissolution.

Mr Johnson told MPs voters would be “absolutely bewildered” by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s apparent resistance to an election.

The Labour leader said he would study the details of the legislation but would only support an election once a no-deal Brexit had been taken off the table.

The one-line bill being proposed by the government could be amended by MPs, potentially to allow 16 and 17-year olds to vote. If that happened, the government could abandon the bill.

The Lib Dems and SNP back the principle of reducing the voting age.

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