Britain may go to polls in Dec as Labour backs Johnson's bid

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, when Parliament refused Mr Johnson his third demand for an early election in an attempt to break the Brexit deadlock.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, when Parliament refused Mr Johnson his third demand for an early election in an attempt to break the Brexit deadlock.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Higher chance of success for PM's Dec 12 election Bill after Corbyn pledges support

LONDON • Britain is heading towards a December election after Prime Minister Boris Johnson's bet on breaking the Brexit deadlock with an early vote gained support from opposition parties.

As the European Union finalises a third delay to the divorce that was originally supposed to take place on March 29 this year, the United Kingdom, its Parliament and its voters remain divided on how or, indeed, whether to go ahead with Brexit.

Mr Johnson, who had promised to deliver Brexit tomorrow, "do or die", has repeatedly demanded an election to end what he casts as a nightmare paralysis that is sapping public trust by preventing any Brexit outcome at all.

After Parliament refused Mr Johnson his third demand for an election on Monday, he was set to try to force a Bill through Parliament yesterday that calls for a Dec 12 election. It needs a simple majority in Parliament.

In a move that raises the chances of a rare parliamentary success for Mr Johnson, the opposition Labour Party's leader Jeremy Corbyn said its condition of ruling out a no-deal Brexit had been met with the EU extending the divorce till Jan 31, so it would support an election.

"Labour will back a general election," he said. "The Labour Party loves a debate but they also love the end of the debate, and this is the end of the debate: We are going out there to win."

Lawmakers could bring significant changes to Mr Johnson's Bill. Opposition parties are squabbling over which day in early December is best for an election and whether to allow settled EU citizens a vote.

 
 
 

Meanwhile, the legislation enacting Mr Johnson's Brexit deal has been put on hold, pending an election, said Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg, who oversees the government's legislative agenda in the House of Commons.

The first Christmas election in Britain since 1923 would be highly unpredictable: Brexit has variously fatigued and enraged swathes of voters while eroding traditional loyalties to the two major parties, Conservative and Labour.

Ultimately, voters would have a choice between an emboldened Mr Johnson pushing for his Brexit deal or a socialist government under Mr Corbyn renegotiating the deal before a referendum.

If no party wins conclusively, the Brexit deadlock will continue.

"I think we've just got to bring this to some sort of resolution. We've had many votes in the last 12 months in Parliament and I think a general election might be a way to sort it all out," one commuter, Mr Matt Finch, 36, told Reuters outside London's Charing Cross rail station.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2019, with the headline 'Britain may go to polls in Dec as Labour backs Johnson's bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe