Johnson seeks Dec 12 polls to break Brexit deadlock

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with pupils of Middleton Primary School in Milton Keynes, England, during a visit yesterday. An election is seen by his team as the only way to break the deadlock over Brexit, after Parliament voted in favour of h
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with pupils of Middleton Primary School in Milton Keynes, England, during a visit yesterday. An election is seen by his team as the only way to break the deadlock over Brexit, after Parliament voted in favour of his deal but then, just minutes later, rejected his preferred timetable, which would have met his Oct 31 deadline.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday called for a general election on Dec 12 to break the Brexit impasse, conceding for the first time that he will not meet his "do or die" deadline to take Britain out of the European Union next week.

He said in a letter to opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that he would give Parliament more time to approve his Brexit deal but that lawmakers must back a December election, in his third attempt to force snap polls.

Labour said it could back an election only when the risk of Mr Johnson leading Britain out of the EU without a deal was off the table, while other opposition parties rejected the offer, casting doubt over its chances of success.

An election is seen by Mr Johnson's team as the only way to break the deadlock over Brexit, after Parliament voted in favour of his deal but then, just minutes later, rejected his preferred timetable, which would have met his Oct 31 deadline.

But Mr Johnson has twice failed before to win the votes in Parliament for an election - he needs the support of two-thirds of its 650 lawmakers.

"This Parliament has refused to take decisions. It cannot refuse to let the voters replace it with a new Parliament that can make decisions," he wrote to Mr Corbyn.

"Prolonging this paralysis into 2020 would have dangerous consequences for businesses, jobs and for basic confidence in democratic institutions, already badly damaged by the behaviour of Parliament since the referendum. Parliament cannot continue to hold the country hostage."

In Parliament, after the government announced that there would be a vote on an election next Monday, Labour's parliamentary business manager Valerie Vaz did not say whether the party would back the move, but criticised the Prime Minister for rejecting her party's attempt to broker a new timetable to discuss his deal.

The Scottish National Party also rejected the Prime Minister's attempt to force an election, casting doubt on whether he will be able to win the votes needed to hold a ballot before Christmas.

END THE PARALYSIS

This Parliament has refused to take decisions. It cannot refuse to let the voters replace it with a new Parliament that can make decisions.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON, in a letter to opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

 
 
 
 

Some media outlets reported disagreement at a meeting of Mr Johnson's top ministers over whether the government should try for an early election, as they feared that doing so before Brexit was settled might hurt the Conservatives.

Mr Johnson seems to still be holding out hope of securing a deal with Brussels, offering Parliament until Nov 6 to ratify an agreement he settled with the EU last week.

"This means that we could get Brexit done before the election on Dec 12, if (Members of Parliament) choose to do so," he said.

Labour has long said that it cannot back an election until no-deal Brexit is off the table.

But if the EU grants an extension until the end of January, that would appear to remove the threat of Mr Johnson taking Britain out of the bloc without an agreement.

By proposing to dissolve Parliament on Nov 6, that would also be beyond the current Oct 31 deadline.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2019, with the headline 'Johnson seeks Dec 12 polls to break Brexit deadlock'. Print Edition | Subscribe