British Opposition Defeats Boris Johnson in the Parliament
The British opposition, together with some "rebellious" conservative MPs, defeated Boris Johnson in a 328 to 301 vote, as an attempt to stop a no-deal Brexit and to give them the chance to carry out their plan through to completion on the next parliamentary session.
The parliament intends to pass a bill that would force Johnson's government to ask Brussels for an extension, something that Johnson vowed he would not do under any circumstance.
After the vote, Johnson threatened the British parliamentarians with calling a general election if the House supports such a bill.
“I don’t want an election. The public doesn’t want an election. But if the House votes for this bill tomorrow, the public will have to choose who goes to Brussels on October 17 to sort this out and take this country forward,” he said.
This move, which may result in the dismissal of the 21 conservative "rebels", is difficult to carry out since the Fixed-term Parliaments Act established that general elections must take place every five years, reducing the prime minister's power to call elections at their whim. Given that the last British General Election was in 2017, the next one should take place in 2022.
However, it's not impossible for the Prime Minister to call a snap election; in order to pull this off, he would need the support of more than 2/3 of the parliament (around 434 votes). A motion of no confidence could be an alternative to this solution, in such a case they would only need a simple majority and parliament which does not form a new government within 14 days.
Former Conservative leader Theresa May already attempted to take this route in 2017, resulting in the formation of a minority government and hurting the conservative party, which lost its majority in the parliament.
Negotiations with Brussels Remain Stalled
As if this were not enough, Johnson has been not successful in convincing Brussels to abandon the Irish Backstop Clause, which has long been the biggest source of contention in the Brexit plan. Brussels simply doesn’t understand why Johnson's government is claiming that the negotiations are progressing, and highlighted that, on the contrary, the discussions are stalled and going nowhere.
“There was literally nothing on the table, not even a sketch of what the solution could look like,” said an EU official when asked about the topic.
Brussels is trying to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, in order to avoid compromising the Good Friday agreement. Because of this, Theresa May's agreement included a protocol that would keep the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland) inside the EU customs union after the Brexit takes place. This is unacceptable for the most rabid Eurosceptics in the British political scene, especially the Irish Democratic Unionist Party which gives Johnson's government a majority in the parliament.
However, the DUP leadership recently announced that they are open to considering allowing an all-Ireland food standards zone.
"We recognize that for reasons of geography and economics agri-food is increasingly managed on a common basis across the island of Ireland," said the DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, "We are ready to find ways forward that recognizes this reality provided it clearly enjoys the consent of all parties and institutions with an interest," he continued, adding that he intends to discuss this idea with the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the European Union leadership.
If approved, this would guarantee that Northern Ireland will keep following the EU rules pertaining to foods coming from abroad, dissipating concerns over quality and protecting British farmers, who otherwise would have to compete with cheaper and lower quality products while having to comply with the rules at the same time.
After the British opposition's victory in the parliament, the sterling could recover from yesterday's lows. By 9:24 GMT the GBP/USD pair was at 1.2162, advancing 0.65 percent, while the GBP/JPY was around the 129.22 level, increasing 0.96 percent. The sterling could follow this trend if the MP's plan to stop a no-deal Brexit is successful.