Thursday 14 November 2019

Boris Johnson seeks general election in December - will allow more time for Brexit debate if MPs agree

UK government 'contradictory' on goods checks between /Northern Ireland and Britain

Fast-track: Boris Johnson wants to do the Brexit deal at the earliest date. Picture: AP
Fast-track: Boris Johnson wants to do the Brexit deal at the earliest date. Picture: AP

Harriet Line, Gavin Cordon, and Sam Blewett

BORIS Johnson has said he will give MPs more time to debate his Brexit deal if they agree to an election by the end of December.

The Prime Minister said there would be more time allocated for the Commons to look at his deal immediately, provided they accept his bid for a December 12 vote.

It comes amid signs the EU is set to grant a fresh Brexit delay until the end of January after Mr Johnson was forced - under the terms of the so-called Benn Act - to request a further extension.

The Prime Minister told the BBC: "I'm afraid it looks as though our EU friends are going to respond to Parliament's request by having an extension, which I really don't want at all.

"So, the way to get this done, the way to get Brexit done, is, I think, to be reasonable with Parliament and say if they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal they can have it but they have to agree to a general election on December 12."

EU leaders are continuing to consider the extension request, and are not expected to make an announcement until Friday.

Mr Johnson's decision comes despite signs of divisions among ministers and senior No 10 advisers over whether to press for a December poll.

He chaired a meeting of the political Cabinet on Thursday afternoon, and is expected to address MPs in the Commons on his plans later on Thursday.

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons during a debate on the Brexit deal (Photo by JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Johnson warned Labour not to try to block an election through the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, saying it would be "morally incredible" if they were so do so.

He said: "If Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party refuse to go along with this deal... then you have to ask what is the purpose they think they would be serving in Parliament."

He added: "We would campaign day after day after day for the people of this country to be released from subjection to a Parliament that has outlived its usefulness.

"It is time frankly for this Parliament to make way for a new, fresh parliament that can deliver on the priorities of the British people."

And in a letter to the Labour leader, he challenged Mr Corbyn to back his call for an early election and "end this nightmare" for the nation.

The PM said it is "likely" that the EU will grant a delay to the January 31 deadline request based on European Council president Donald Tusk's comments, though he said it is "possible" a shorter one could be offered to November 15 or 30.

If the later deadline is approved, the PM said "it is clear that there must be an election" in order not to "risk further paralysis".

He wrote that if the January deadline is granted then MPs "will vote next week" on whether to hold his desired election.

The PM offered to "make all possible time between now and November 6" including Fridays and weekends for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to be debated and voted on.

"It is our duty to end this nightmare and provide the country with a solution as soon as we reasonably can," Mr Johnson wrote.

The PM said that under his plan Parliament would be dissolved on November 6 - which it is hoped would allay fears of a no-deal Brexit as an extension would have already taken effect.

Meanwhile, the UK Government has been criticised for making contradictory remarks about checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain after Brexit.

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Priti Patel has previously suggested threatening Ireland with food shortages. Photo: PA

Home Secretary Priti Patel was unable to clarify what checks will take place and was not able to rule out the involvement of Border Force officers when she appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Ms Patel has since written to the committee to clarify the position within the Northern Ireland Protocol, confirming that administrative procedures including a declaration will be required when goods move from GB to Northern Ireland.

Committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper said: "In the last three days, different senior members of the Government have said contradictory things about checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain and the other way round.

"This is too important to be fudged. They need to be straight with people about what checks there will be.

"From the Home Secretary's letter, it is clear now that there will be checks on goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland - but why could she and the Home Office not be clear about that yesterday at the committee? Those checks will have a significant impact on Northern Ireland.

"This makes it even more serious that the Prime Minister is trying to avoid scrutiny - both from the Liaison Committee and for his legislation in Parliament. You can't hide something as important as this."

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