Johnson Calls For An Election
Boris Johnson has lost his first vote in the commons as PM. Responding to an “SO24” debate, an emergency debate, opposition MPs and rebel Conservatives voted by 328 to 301 to take control of the order paper today (from 3 PM) to debate a law which would require the PM to ask the EU for an extension of the A50 notice period. The opposition have got their ducks in a row and it is now highly likely that the law will gain Royal Assent next week before parliament can be prorogued. The bill’s passage through the commons is being fast-tracked for today and is set to pass through the House of Lords by 5PM on Friday. The bill would mean that Johnson was compelled to ask for the extension to avoid a “no deal” Brexit by the end of October or break the law of the land.
Johnson said that he viewed last night’s vote as a matter of confidence (and presumably now accepts that he has lost the confidence of the House on his first time out (almost)) and intends to table a motion today, calling for a general election under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. However, it is a certainty that he will fail to get the support of 2/3rds of MPs needed for an election to be called, in these circumstances, under the act. Whilst the opposition parties want an election, they are adamant that they have no trust in the PM and will only agree to the request once today’s bill (the Benn bill) becomes law. They are also unlikely to agree to Johnson’s timetable since he has promised his supporters that the UK will leave the EU “do or die” on 31st October 2019, something he will not deliver if the law is passed today and the election called for after that date.
Earlier in the day, the defection of Dr Philip Lee to the LibDems removed Johnson’s majority of 1. In the wake of the rebellion, Johnson withdrew the whip from the 21 Conservative MPs who had voted against him (including the former chancellor, Philip Hammond), effectively expelling them from the party.
Sterling hit a 3-year low against the Euro in the course of the day, but rallied as it became clear that (for now, at least) a “no deal” Brexit has become less likely. At the time of writing, the Pound stands at €1.1043.