Thursday 19 September 2019

MPs reject Boris Johnson's motion to trigger snap general election

  • Boris Johnson’s attempt to trigger an early general election has failed
  • Motion did not secure the required support of two-thirds of MPs, with the Commons voting 298 to 56
  • Simon Coveney tells private meeting that the UK has put forward no proposals "at all" to replace the backstop since Boris Johnson took over as prime minister
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons in London, Britain September 4, 2019. ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons in London, Britain September 4, 2019. ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday September 4, 2019. See PA story POLITICS PMQs Johnson. Photo credit should read: House of Commons/PA Wire
Vote: Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to hold an election. Photo: ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Boris Johnson’s attempt to trigger an early general election has failed.

Boris Johnson earlier said "there must now be an election on Tuesday October 15" after legislation designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit cleared the Commons.

Handout photo issued by UK Parliament of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire
Handout photo issued by UK Parliament of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire

However, his motion did not secure the required support of two-thirds of MPs this evening, with the Commons voting 298 to 56.

He dismissed the result, saying he believes Labour's Jeremy Corbyn must be the "first opposition leader in the history of the country to reject a snap election".

He accused Jeremy Corbyn of wanting to "stop the people from voting" after failing to secure enough support to trigger an early general election.

He said: "I think there is only one solution, I think he has become the first, to my knowledge, the first leader of the opposition in the democratic history of our country to refuse the invitation to an election.

"And I can only speculate as to the reasons behind his hesitation. The obvious conclusion, I'm afraid, is that he does not think he will win.

"I urge his colleagues to reflect on what I think is the sustainability of his position overnight and in the course of the next few days."

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons in London, Britain September 4, 2019. ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons in London, Britain September 4, 2019. ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, tweeted: "No Boris Johnson, you can't just use an election to sneak through a dangerous No Deal Brexit. The Liberal Democrats will not support an election until Article 50 has been extended."

The division list showed three Labour MPs voted for the general election motion.

There were 28 Labour MPs who opposed the motion.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: "When No Deal is off the table, once and for all, we should go back to the people in a public vote or a General Election to decide our country's future."

The division list also showed 284 Conservative MPs voted for the general election motion along with 10 DUP MPs and Independent Charlie Elphicke (Dover).

Those who voted against also included 13 Lib Dems, three Plaid Cymru, five Independent Group for Change and seven Independents.

Contempt: Jacob Rees-Mogg sparked fury in the House of Commons by reclining on a bench during the debate
Contempt: Jacob Rees-Mogg sparked fury in the House of Commons by reclining on a bench during the debate

Earlier, legislation designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit on October 31 has cleared its first Commons hurdle after MPs gave it a second reading by 329 votes to 300, majority 29.

Introducing the EU Withdrawal (No. 6) Bill, which seeks to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal in October earlier, Labour MP Hilary Benn said: "I think wherever we stand on this issue, we know there is very little time left and, following the decision on prorogation, there is even less time than would have been available previously."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

Mr Benn noted strong feelings on both sides in the Chamber, and appealed to MPs to "treat each other with respect" during the debate.

He added: "The purpose of the Bill is very simple. It is to ensure that the United Kingdom does not leave the European Union on October 31 without an agreement.

He said the Bill has "wide cross-party support", including from former senior Cabinet members.

Mr Benn added: "You could describe it as a somewhat unlikely alliance, but what unites us is a conviction that there is no mandate for no-deal, and that the consequences for the economy and for our country would be highly damaging."

Mr Benn said: "The Prime Minister's made it absolutely clear that he is prepared to leave on 31st October without a deal, and those of us who I hope will support the Bill today do not wish that to happen."

He added: "We cannot continue to delay taking a decision... the Bill is deliberately open as to the purpose of the extension so it provides a framework for reporting and debate and it is supported as I've just pointed out by (MPs) who have already voted for a deal and would vote for one again.

READ MORE: Brext A to Z - Key terms related to Britain's exit from the EU explained

"And I would just say it's very important that we focus on the principal purpose which is to prevent a no-deal Brexit and to keep the coalition that shares that view together."

He went on: "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, which as it may turn out at 7 o'clock tonight is not what the House of Commons wants and we should respect that."

Tory MP Sir Bill Cash said the "incredibly rushed procedure is a travesty in itself", saying it had been difficult to assess the Bill and draft amendments in such a short amount of time.

In a point of order, Sir Bill said there should have been more time for MPs to consider the legislation.

He also asked whether the Bill would require the Queen's consent.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said MPs had had enough time to consider the Bill, and that its "basic subject matter" is well known to them. He said the speed with which the Bill was being processed is "unusual", but not "disorderly".

He also said he has consulted the Clerk of Legislation and other senior clerks and that he is satisfied there is no requirement for the Queen's consent for the Bill.

Earlier, Tánaiste Simon Coveney told a private meeting that the UK has put forward no proposals "at all" to replace the backstop since Boris Johnson took over as prime minister.

Speaking to a ‘business breakfast’ in Wicklow, where there were no media present, Mr Coveney gave his most frank assessment of the Brexit scenario so far.

Sources inside the room told Independent.ie that the Tánaiste was blunt in his commentary.

An audience of around 200 people were told: "Not only do we not have a credible and legally sound proposal to the backstop coming from Boris Johnson, the EU has seen no proposal at all in fact."

Mr Johnson has claimed progress towards alternative arrangements was being made and the EU was ceding ground.

Mr Coveney said the Irish position has remained "clear" and "consistent", adding that it will not be changing despite the dramatics in Westminster.

"It’s based on fact and reality, not personalities," he said.

"The UK could still crash out in 57 days. It’s a very, very real possibility and so we need businesses to keep up preparations," the Tánaiste added.

Last night, Ireland was thrown a Brexit lifeline after British MPs voted to seize control of the House of Commons from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The spectre of a no-deal Brexit has receded for now following a historic shift of power.

READ MORE: Brext A to Z - Key terms related to Britain's exit from the EU explained

Additional reporting: PA and Reuters

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