Boris Johnson’s hard-right Brexiter’s “coup” of the British government appears to be falling apart as Conservative members of his own party are standing up to oppose his reckless leadership. (Can anyone even imagine the sniveling cowards in the Republican Party in Congress standing up to the reckless leadership of Donald Trump this way?)
Boris Johnson lost his first vote since being selected, not elected, by his Conservative Party as Prime Minister on Tuesday. He lost control of Parliament for a critical vote on Wednesday after losing his majority in Parliament. As one unidentified MP shouted after the vote “Not a good start Boris.” Harrumph, Harrumph!
As Boris Johnson was addressing The Commons, Dr. Phillip Lee, the MP for Bracknell, took his seat on the opposition benches. His defection means Boris Johnson no longer had a working majority. Tory MP defects ahead of crucial no-deal vote.
MPs hoping to pass legislation to block a “no deal” Brexit then cleared the first hurdle after Speaker John Bercow granted them an emergency debate.
After several hours of debate, the Commons voted 328 to 301 to take control of the agenda in a humiliating defeat for the Prime Minister, meaning they can bring forward a bill seeking to delay the UK’s exit date. Boris Johnson defeated as MPs take control:
In response, Boris Johnson said he would bring forward a motion for an early general election.
Jeremy Corbyn said the bill should be passed before an election was held.
In total, 21 Tory MPs, including a number of ex-cabinet ministers, joined opposition parties to defeat the government.
After the vote, Downing Street said those Tory MPs who rebelled would have the whip removed, effectively expelling them from the parliamentary party.
No 10 had hoped the threat of expulsion – and an election – would bring would-be rebels into line.
It did not, they stood firm on principle. CNN reports The “rebel alliance” included former Cabinet ministers including Philip Hammond, Rory Stewart and David Gauke — and Winston Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames.
Having the whip removed means the 21 Conservative MPs will no longer be able to sit with the government in the House of Commons and will be barred from standing in a future election.
This also means that Johnson’s working majority — which had dropped from one to zero after an MP defected several hours ago — is technically non-existent.
Here is a full list of the Tory rebels as published by the House of Commons:
The prime minister said the MPs’ bill would “hand control” of Brexit negotiations to the EU and bring “more dither, more delay, more confusion”.
He told MPs he had no choice but to press ahead with efforts to call an October election, adding: “The people of this country will have to choose.”
The result means the MPs will be able to take control of Commons business on Wednesday.
That will give them the chance to introduce a cross-party bill — the Benn bill — which would force the prime minister to ask for Brexit to be delayed until 31 January, unless MPs approve a new deal, or vote in favour of a no-deal exit, by 19 October.
The BBC understands the government intends to hold an election on 15 October, two days before a crucial EU summit in Brussels.
To call an election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, Mr Johnson would need support from Labour as he requires the backing of two-thirds of the UK’s 650 MPs.
But Mr Corbyn said the legislation backed by opposition MPs and Tory rebels should pass before any election was held, to “take no deal off the table”.
He added: “There is no majority to leave without a deal within the country”.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said he did not trust Boris Johnson not to call an election for mid-October and then change the date afterwards.
He said the prime minister could “change the date so that during the general election campaign we crash out of the European Union with a no deal”.
“We want it bolting down that a no-deal Brexit can’t occur, and once that’s done, we want a general election as soon as possible,” he told the BBC.
Johnson, who became prime minister in July, has tried to crack down on members of his Conservative Party who oppose his Brexit plans, warning they would be expelled from the party if they supported parliamentary efforts to block or delay the withdrawal.
Dominic Grieve, who was attorney general in David Cameron’s government, says the expulsion threats demonstrate Johnson’s “ruthlessness.” Greening said she feared her beloved [Conservative] party was “morphing into Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.” Former Treasury chief Philip Hammond warned of the “fight of a lifetime” if officials tried to prevent him from running in the next election.
* * *
Changing the government would not be so simple, however. A no-confidence vote would spark a 14-day period in which Johnson could try to overturn the result. If he failed, there would be a general election.
During that key 14-day period, another lawmaker could try to win Parliament’s backing in a vote. If they succeeded, Johnson should, in theory, have to step down and let the winner form a government.
But these rules were introduced in a 2011 law and have never been tested.
As Brexit faces crucial days, international investors are showing concern. The pound sterling fell as low as $1.1960 on Tuesday, down about a cent on the day before, stabilizing around $1.1990.
That was its lowest level since a “flash crash” in October 2016, when uncertainty after the Brexit referendum was particularly high. Not counting that brief plunge — in which the currency fell to $1.1789 for about two minutes before recovering — the pound is now at its lowest level in 34 years.
A no-deal Brexit is considered dangerous because it will sever decades of seamless trade with Europe’s single market of 500 million people. Economists warn that trade would be disrupted by tariffs and customs checks between Britain and the bloc. Leaked government documents predicted disruptions to the supply of drugs and medicine, a decrease in the availability of fresh food and even potential fresh water shortages because of disruption to supplies of water treatment chemicals.
Johnson insists the potential for leaving without a deal must remain as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the EU.
Though the EU is Britain’s biggest trading partner, a no-deal Brexit would also be disruptive to Europe — a fact not lost on Brussels. Johnson’s supporters said lawmakers were weakening the government’s negotiating position with the EU.
Boris Johnson doesn’t have a negotiating position other than a “no deal” Brexit. This is completely disingenuous, and everyone knows it.
“I don’t see how I can be accused of undermining the negotiations because there are no negotiations taking place,” Jeremy Corbin told MPs.
Boris Johnson has told French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel he could come up with a better alternative to the main sticking point in the stalled Brexit negotiations — the deadlock on the Irish border question.
But with the clock ticking, the EU said Tuesday it had received no proposals from the British government aimed at overcoming the impasse in Brexit talks.
European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said the EU’s executive body, which supervises Brexit negotiations on behalf of Britain’s 27 European partners, is operating on the “working assumption” that Britain will leave the bloc on Oct. 31.
This morning, the Prime Minister is still trying to bully his way into a snap election because it is the only play that he has. But the Labour Party and the rebel alliance of expelled Conservative MPs hold the cards, as it takes a two-thirds vote to call an election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. Boris Johnson challenges Jeremy Corbyn to back October election. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told Labour MPs the leadership would not back an election until a Brexit delay had been agreed to with the EU.
A no confidence vote now appears more likely.
Meanwhile, the legal challenge to Boris Johnson “proroguing” Parliament, has initially failed. Judge rejects parliament shutdown legal challenge:
A Scottish judge has rejected a bid to have Boris Johnson’s plan to shut down parliament ahead of Brexit declared illegal.
The case was brought to the Court of Session in Edinburgh by a cross-party group of 75 parliamentarians, who argued the PM had exceeded his powers.
But Lord Doherty ruled on Wednesday that the issue was for politicians and voters to judge, and not the courts.
He said there had been no contravention of the law by the UK government.
The group of MPs and peers behind the legal challenge, who are headed by SNP MP Joanna Cherry and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, will have their appeal against the ruling heard by three Inner House judges on Thursday.
In his ruling, Lord Doherty said the decision to prorogue parliament was justiciable – a matter for the courts – in some circumstances but not in others, depending on the context.
But he said he had not been persuaded after hearing legal arguments from both sides on Tuesday that the case before him was justiciable.
He added: “In my view, the advice given in relation to the prorogation decision is a matter involving high policy and political judgement.
“This is political territory and decision making which cannot be measured against legal standards, but only by political judgements.
“Accountability for the advice is to parliament, and ultimately the electorate – not to the courts.”
Lord Doherty also said it was opinion that there had been “no contravention of the rule of law” by the prime minister.
He said: “The power to prorogue is a prerogative power and the prime minister had the vires (powers) to advise the sovereign as to its exercise.”
I will update later today after the votes on the Benn bill and possible vote on an election.
UPDATE: British lawmakers have passed a bill after a third read aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit, in another blow to Prime Minster Boris Johnson. It cleared the House of Commons by 327 votes to 299. It now goes to the House of Lords where it will likely face extensive delaying tactics.
Buzzfeed has an Explainer For People Who Want To Know What The Hell Is Going On:
Now that the Benn bill has passed it goes to the House of Lords. The rebels want it to get through the upper chamber by Friday, before Parliament is prorogued on Monday next week, by which point it would be too late.
But we’re expecting Conservative, pro-Brexit peers in the Lords to attempt all sorts of trickery to stop the bill from passing.
They are planning to add a ridiculous 90-odd amendments to the order paper motion, which is all about stalling and wasting everyone’s time — potentially all through the night, for several nights, until the weekend.
If the bill is successfully “filibustered”, it will not become law and the rebel alliance will have failed. The UK will be on course for no deal. But look out for other trickery to counter the trickery. A trickery sandwich.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tabled a motion to The Commons to hold a snap general election on Tuesday, October 15 under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. This motion is presently being debated, with a vote to follow later today.
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, Johnson needs a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Commons to call an election; it’s not going to happen because he does not have the votes.
The Buzzfeed explainer continues:
This is why Labour will block it until the Benn bill wends its way through the House of Lords and becomes law. Labour could even amend Johnson’s motion tonight, to say the party will allow an election once the bill has gone through [become law].
If Johnson can’t get the two-thirds majority and loses the election vote, there’s still a way for him to override the Fixed-term Parliaments Act — by putting forward a new motion and winning with a simple majority.
Considering the scale of his defeat on Tuesday, Johnson may not have the numbers to achieve this.
It would mean we’d be in what Westminster insiders are calling “parliamentary purgatory”.
If he can’t call an election, Johnson might ask the Queen not to grant royal assent to the Benn bill legislation — the Queen basically needs to approve any new laws coming out of Parliament — which would create (even more of) an unprecedented, absurd constitutional crisis than we’re currently in.
Alternatively, Johnson might even be so desperate that he could deliberately lose a confidence vote, which would trigger an election.
Once the anti-no-deal legislation has passed, Labour could decide to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson, which, if it won, would give Corbyn the chance to try to form a government of his own.
Senior Labour figures like Keir Starmer and John McDonnell have hinted that this might be the plan.
If Johnson lost that vote, then Corbyn — or another MP, maybe the newly independent Ken Clarke? — would have 14 days to try to form a new government.
Then, if no new government could be formed, there would be an election.
It is likely that at some point, an election will be called.
* * *
If no one secures a majority in the election and there’s a hung Parliament, Johnson will remain prime minister until he agrees to hand over power. But he also will be forced to seek an extension [for Brexit] on Oct. 19.
If Johnson wins a majority, the UK is full steam ahead toward a “no deal Brexit.” If Corbyn wins, Labour has said it backs a second referendum on any Brexit deal negotiated with Brussels.
Stay tuned for further updates.
The Prime Minister needed two-thirds of all MPs to vote in favor under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, but the result only saw 298 vote for the motion and 56 against – 136 short of the number he needed.
Labour sources told the BBC the party abstained on the vote, although three MPs appeared to have voted for it and 28 against.
The SNP also abstained.
If you’re wondering how Boris Johnson’s latest attempts to bring his party together to deliver Brexit are going, the prime minister’s own brother has just quit the government and claimed his sibling may be damaging the country.
Jo Johnson, a lawmaker for the Conservative party since 2010, has announced that he’s standing down as a member of parliament (MP) and a minister in his brother’s government because he can no longer reconcile “family loyalty and the national interest.”
“It’s been an honour to represent Orpington for nine years and to serve as a minister under three prime ministers,” he wrote. “In recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest—it’s an unresolvable tension and [it’s] time for others to take on my roles and MP and minister.”
The betrayal is the most personal in a series of blows suffered by the prime minister this week.
Boris Johnson is starting to remind me of Kevin Bacon in Animal House.