Boris Johnson was tonight running out of road in his bid to deliver Brexit by Halloween after legislation to rule out No Deal was passed by MPs – and he faces being blocked from holding a snap election.
Having endured a torrid day including struggling in his first PMQs, Mr Johnson looks to be cornered after a Remainer alliance took control of the Commons and started pushing through a law despite his warning that it ‘wrecks’ his negotiating position.
MPs backed a rebel Bill by a margin of 327 to 299 that orders him to beg the EU for a Brexit delay until January if a deal has not been agreed by October 19.
Immediately after the result, Mr Johnson insisted it had ‘ended the negotiations’. He said he will never ask for an extension, and would rather go to the country on October 15.
But his motion forcing a poll is expected to fail later tonight as he needs agreement from two-thirds of the Commons and Labour has said it will abstain.
The leaves the premier running out of options to keep his promises – unable to secure Brexit and unable to call an election.
Adding to Mr Johnson’s woes, there are deep splits on Labour’s front bench about when it would support a poll.
Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman suggested today that the party would be happy to trigger a poll after the rebel law goes on to the statute book, expected to be this weekend. That would give time for Parliament to be dissolved for an October 15 vote.
But Sir Keir Starmer told MPs this morning that the legislation should be ‘implemented’ before an election is held – suggesting the date should be much later.
He seemed to confirm in the chamber this evening that an extension would need to be in place before a poll, saying Labour would ‘ensure that we do not leave the EU with No Deal’. ‘That requires the passing and implementation of this act.’
Presenting rebel legislation designed to stop the UK crashing out, Labour’s Hilary Benn said the longer the delay for ‘jumping off the cliff’ the better.
He insisted the Bill should be passed by Parliament and ‘given effect’ before an election is called – saying that meant the Brexit date would have been postponed.
The legislation made it through the second reading stage by 329 to 300 – a slightly bigger majority than the 27 secured by rebels last night.
The legislation made it through the second reading stage by 329 to 300 – a slightly bigger majority than the 27 secured by rebels last night
Presenting rebel legislation designed to stop the UK crashing out, Labour’s Hilary Benn (pictured right) said the longer the delay for ‘jumping off the cliff’ the better. Philip Hammond (left) swiped at Boris Johnson for his ‘mass purge’ of rebels
An alliance of Remainer rebels is trying to force through legislation that would rule out No Deal – thwarting his ‘do or die’ vow to take the UK out of the EU by Halloween
Keir Starmer (pictured centre today) seemed to confirm in the chamber this evening that an extension would need to be in place before a poll, saying Labour would ‘ensure that we do not leave the EU with No Deal’
The legislation would require the PM to seek a three month extension from the EU if no deal has been agreed by October 19. He would have to accept immediately if those terms were granted by the bloc, and accept within two days if they set other conditions.
What will happen – and when – in the Commons today?
Now : A final set of votes on whether the anti-No Deal law can proceed. If MPs back the Bill it will then head to the Lords for further scrutiny.
9pm: The PM will start a debate on whether there should be an early election.
10.30pm: MPs will vote on whether there should be an early election.
After 10.30pm: Boris Johnson to reveal his response
Tomorrow: Bill to stop No Deal goes to the House of Lords
The premier could only refuse an extension if there was a vote in the Commons authorising him to do so.
Introducing the Bill, Mr Benn told the Commons that passing it was not enough. ‘It needs to be given effect,’ he said. ‘In other words, we must in my opinion secure that extension to Article 50, otherwise there is a risk that the election would result in us leaving without a deal.’
Meanwhile, former chancellor Philip Hammond and veteran Sir Nicholas Soames – who were both expelled from the Conservative Party for joining the No Deal rebellion last night – spoke in support of the measure.
Mr Hammond lashed out at Mr Johnson’s ‘mass purge’ of moderate MPs, and dismissed the PM’s claim he was helping Mr Corbyn, saying he would rather ‘boil my head’ than assist the hard-left Labour leader.
Earlier, Mr Johnson blasted Mr Corbyn for ‘dithering’ and plotting a ‘surrender’ to the EU.
Taking his first PMQs, a furious Mr Johnson branded Mr Corbyn a ‘chlorinated chicken’ for refusing to agree to a poll on October 15 and said he ‘used to be a democrat’.
Channelling Margaret Thatcher’s famous taunt to opponents, Mr Johnson said: ‘Is he frit?’
At one point the premier also turned the air blue in the chamber by claiming the Opposition’s economic strategy was ‘sh** or bust’.
Meanwhile, the Labour leader was jeered by Tory MPs as he accused the PM of trying to ‘avoid scrutiny’.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said his party also wanted anti-No Deal legislation passed before an election. But Nicola Sturgeon swiped that she did not believe Mr Corbyn ‘wants an election at all’.
Mr Johnson is facing more massive showdowns in Parliament today as a rebel alliance tries to force through legislation that would rule out No Deal – thwarting his ‘do or die’ vow to take the UK out of the EU by Halloween.
He has also called a vote tonight on holding a snap election so the ‘people can decide’ after Remainers seized control of Commons business.
But the premier – who struggled at times during the PMQs session as he was berated over his Brexit stance – needs agreement from two-thirds of the House to trigger a national ballot.
And despite spending years demanding an election, Mr Corbyn has insisted he will stop one happening until legislation has been passed guaranteeing that the UK cannot crash out.
The decision – described as the ‘mother of all U-turns’ by ministers – leaves the country in limbo, with Mr Johnson now unable to control the House – but also powerless to return to the electorate.
The premier gathered his Cabinet in Downing Street this morning as they frantically try to plot a way through the burgeoning crisis.
The latest shocking developments began when Mr Johnson lost a crunch vote at around 10pm, giving a rebel alliance control of Commons business with the aim of passing a law to stop the UK crashing out of the EU at the end of October, by an unexpectedly large margin of 328 to 301.
Some 21 Tory MPs – including eight former Cabinet ministers – defied threats of deselection to side with the Opposition over Brexit.
Channelling Margaret Thatcher’s famous taunt to opponents, Boris Johnson demanded to know whether Jeremy Corbyn was ‘frit’ of a snap election
In a barrage of stinging jibes, Mr Johnson branded Mr Corbyn a ‘chlorinated chicken’ and said he ‘used to be a democrat’
The Labour leader was jeered by Tory MPs as he accused the Prime Minister of trying to ‘avoid scrutiny’ in the Commons
The rebel legislation and the PM’s bid to force an early general election are both on the Commons order paper today
The politicians, including veteran Ken Clarke and Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames, have now been brutally axed from the Conservatives, effectively ending their careers.
PM brands Jeremy Corbyn ‘big girl’s blouse’ over election block
Boris Johnson called Jeremy Corbyn a ‘great big girl’s blouse’ and was described as a racist for his comments on Islamic dress as he faced a testing debut at Prime Minister’s Questions.
The exchanges came just hours after MPs voted to seize control of the order paper, raising the likelihood of a delay to Brexit and prompting the PM to threaten a general election.
As the two leaders debated at the despatch box, Mr Corbyn attacked the PM over his plans to prorogue Parliament, claiming Mr Johnson is ‘absolutely desperate to avoid scrutiny’.
In response, Mr Johnson threw up his arms and seemed to call out: ‘Call an election, you great big girl’s blouse.’
Shortly afterwards, Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi stood to condemn Mr Johnson for his ‘derogatory and racist remarks’ in a column for the Daily Telegraph, in which he described some Muslim women as ‘letter boxes’.
An angry Mr Dhesi gestured around the Commons and asked: ‘Mr Speaker, if I decide to wear a turban, or you decide to wear a cross, or he decides to wear a kippah or a skull cap, or she decides to wear a hijab or burka, does that mean that it is open season for right honourable members of this House to make divisive and derogatory remarks about our appearance?’
After calling on the PM to apologise for the column, Mr Dhesi received a round of applause from many in the chamber.
Mr Johnson responded by saying his column had been a ‘strong, liberal defence… of everybody’s right to wear whatever they want in this country’.
He added: ‘I speak as somebody who is not only proud to have Muslim ancestors but to be related to Sikhs such as himself.’
But the tough move means Mr Johnson’s numbers in the Commons are disastrously low, far short of an overall majority and completely unsustainable.
At a combative PMQs session, Mr Johnson said he own strategy was to get a Brexit deal by the EU summit on October 17.
He added: ‘What his surrender bill would do is wreck any chance of the talks and we don’t know his strategy at all.
‘He’s asking for mobs and Momentum activists to paralyse the traffic in his name.
‘What are they supposed to chant? What is the slogan? ”What do we want? Dither and delay. When do want it? We don’t know.”
‘That’s his policy. Can he confirm now that he will allow the people of this country to decide on what he is giving up in their name with a general election on October 15 – or is he frit?’
The PM listed his plans for police, the NHS and the economy before highlighting comments by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner.
Mr Johnson said: ‘The shadow education secretary says that their economic policy is, I quote Mr Speaker by your leave, ‘sh** or bust’.
‘I say it’s both, Mr Speaker.’
Mr Johnson faces an uphill battle to get his plan through the Commons tonight, as the law dictates that two-thirds of MPs must agree to hold an early election.
Mr Corbyn shouted at Mr Johnson across the despatch box last night: ‘He wants to table a motion for a general election, fine. Get the bill through first in order to take No Deal off the table.’
And shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said during a round of interviews: ‘We are not voting for a general election today.
‘We are not dancing to Boris Johnson’s tune. If Johnson says the election will be on 15 October no one trusts him.’
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said Mr Corbyn was ‘perverse’ and ‘frightened’.
‘What is very clear to me is the leader of the opposition has said consistently that he wants a general election and it is perverse of him to say now that he doesn’t want one, and it appears to me he is rather frightened of a general election,’ he told Today.
Former chancellor Ken Clarke (circled) and others from the 21-strong gang who joined a stunning mutiny in the Commons last night were still positioned with the government today
Former Cabinet ministers David Gauke (standing) and Philip Hammond (second from left, centre row) were both sitting with their former colleagues in the chamber today
Mr Johnson tweeted today to underline his vow to secure Brexit by the end of October despite the Remainer revolt
‘We have had three years of this debate and we have gone round and round, and it may well be that a general election is the best way forward and the only way to solve the impasse.’
The staggering blow last night came in the first vote of Mr Johnson’s premiership. ‘Not a good start, Boris!’ shouted one Labour MP as the result came in.
Jeremy Corbyn’s U-turn: How Labour leader changed his tune on a general election
Jeremy Corbyn has been consistently demanding a general election for years.
But now the opportunity has arisen, he suddenly does not seem so keen.
September 2018, Twitter: ’We need a General Election and I’m ready for it. Bring it on.’
November 2018, CBI speech: ‘If the Government cannot get its central policy through Parliament, then we will demand a general election.’
December 2018, Daily Mirror: ’The Government is going to struggle. It may well resign. There may well be a general election. And I can’t wait.’
May 2019, Twitter: ‘Let the people decide our country’s future: we need a General Election now.’
September 2, 2019, speech in Salford: ‘When a government finds itself without a majority the solution is not to undermine democracy. The solution is to let the people decide, and call a general election.’
September 3, 2019, House of Commons: ‘Get the Bill through first in order to take No Deal off the table.’
And the punishment that follow for rebels was described by one government source as a ‘Remainer bloodbath’.
Former International Development Secretary Rory Stewart called the decision to throw him out of the party ‘astonishing’ and said it was something ‘you associate with other countries’ rather than Britain.
He received the news of his sacking as he was being given the GQ award for politician of the year.
‘It came by text,’ the Penrith and the Border MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ’It was a pretty astonishing moment. Remember, only a few weeks ago I was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party against Boris Johnson and I was in the Cabinet. And it has all gone very quickly in six weeks.
‘It feels a little bit like something you associate with other countries – one opposes the leader, one loses the leadership race, no longer in the cabinet and now apparently thrown out of the party and one’s seat too.’
Mr Stewart said there were ’30 or 40′ other Tories who had been wanting to block No Deal but were cowed into backing the PM by the deselection threats.
Yesterday’s victory for pro-EU MPs came despite Mr Johnson threatening to end the careers of Tories who joined the revolt by deselecting them.
Speaking after the result, Mr Johnson said Parliament was ‘on the brink of wrecking’ the Brexit negotiations.
‘The people are going to have to choose,’ he said last night. ‘I can confirm tonight we are tabling a motion under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.’
The scale of the Tory rebellion was larger than many had expected at Westminster, with the ‘aggressive’ government tactics failing to whittle down numbers.
Farage says Brexit election pact MUST happen as he praises PM
The Brexit Party leader said ‘of course’ the forces must do a deal to stop them splitting the Eurosceptic vote in the poll – which could come as early as October 15.
He told MailOnline he was increasingly confident there will be an arrangement saying Mr Johnson was ‘going in the right direction’.
But he again stressed that the premier must go for a ‘clean break’ from the EU rather than try to overhaul the Withdrawal Agreement.
Mr Farage said he was ‘massively impressed’ with the leadership Mr Johnson had shown by ejecting 21 Remainer rebels.
‘I didn’t think he would have the nerve, but he has done it,’ he said.
The combative attitude of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg during the debate on the business motion seemed to infuriate many who were wavering.
Former minister Guto Bebb said he believed Mr Rees-Mogg cost the government at least four votes.
‘There were at least four individuals who were still doubtful who changed their position to being supportive and voting with us on the back of Jacob’s performance,’ he told Sky News. ‘He was deemed to be arrogant, out of touch and I think the way in which he treated some of the interventions was a red rag to bull in many cases.’
The roll call of rebels included ex-Chancellor Mr Hammond, who has already vowed to fight efforts to deselect him, as well as former ministers Justine Greening and Alistair Burt – who both pre-empted their punishments earlier by announcing they would be standing down at the election.
Other Cabinet veterans were Sir Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve, Mr Clarke, Greg Clark, Rory Stewart, and Caroline Nokes. Sir Nicholas Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill, also rebelled.
A Downing Street spokesman said last night: ‘The Chief Whip is speaking with those Tory MPs who did not vote with the Government this evening. They will have the whip removed.’
A rebel source said No10 was ‘removing the whip from two former chancellors, a former lord chancellor and Winston Churchill’s grandson’.
‘What has has happened to the Conservative Party?’ they added.
Mr Johnson was spotted outside the Houses of Parliament with his maverick chief Brexit aide Dominic Cummings today