UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has failed to garner the votes he needed for a general election, after losing a key vote over Brexit.
The European Union (Withdrawal) (No 6) bill, introduced by Labour MP Hilary Benn, attained majority votes in its first – 327 votes to 299 – and second hearing – 329 to 300 – in the House of Commons. In the increasingly probable event that by 19 October 2019 the government is unable to attract a majority of votes for a Brexit withdrawal agreement – the current agreement, which the EU has stated categorically that it will not reopen, has failed to gain the approval of the House three times – or for a no-deal exit from the EU, the bill compels the prime minister to approach the EU to request a further extension to the Brexit deadline, moving it from 31 October to a provisional date of 31 January 2020.
Johnson lost his first parliamentary vote as prime minister on 3 September in a debate over whether to allow the bill to be heard in the House on 4 September. 21 Conservative MPs rebelled against the government position to vote in favour of making time for the bill; all the rebels consequently had the whip removed, meaning they have officially been ejected from the party and will sit as independent MPs for the time being.
In the wake of the government’s loss on the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 6) bill, Johnson attempted to put forward a motion which would set a general election next month. General elections need the votes of two thirds of sitting MPs to pass – 434 votes – but the motion only received 298 votes in favour, with 56 against, after the Labour and Scottish National parties abstained en masse.
The European Union (Withdrawal) (No 6) bill has now passed to the House of Lords, which has committed to pass the bill before Friday afternoon, when it will return to the House of Commons for a final vote ahead of the prorogation of Parliament next week.