Opposition parties signal backing for election if Brexit delayed until 2020

Opposition parties signal backing for election if Brexit delayed until 2020
Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers' Questions session. Picture: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson met this morning to discuss a new programme motion for his Brexit deal, Labour has confirmed.

Following the meeting, a party spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn reiterated Labour’s offer to the Prime Minister to agree a reasonable timetable to debate, scrutinise and amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and restated that Labour will support a general election when the threat of a no-deal crashout is off the table.”

Following the meeting between Mr Corbyn and Mr Johnson, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said: "This is yet more clear proof that Jeremy Corbyn wants to deliver Brexit.

"Yesterday Boris Johnson's deal passed because 19 Labour MPs walked through the lobby to vote for a Brexit deal that would be bad for our NHS, bad for our economy and bad for our environment.

"It seems that Jeremy Corbyn has thrown Boris Johnson another lifeline this morning as six white men met to discuss pushing through a Brexit deal which will wreck our country.

"Jeremy Corbyn is a Brexiteer and Remainers won't forget if a shady backroom deal between Johnson and Corbyn helps to deliver Brexit."

Meanwhile, opposition parties have signalled they will back a general election this autumn if the European Union grants a delay to Brexit until next year.

Mr Johnson has vowed to push for a poll if EU leaders sanction an extension of up to three months, after his plans to fast-track his deal through the Commons by October 31 hit the buffers.

The British Prime Minister must now wait to hear from the heads of the 27 member states, but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar affirmed his support for a delay in a call with European Council president Donald Tusk.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Tusk “noted that it would still be possible for the UK to leave before January 31 2020 if the Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified in advance of that date”, according to a statement issued by the Taoiseach’s office.

“The matter is likely to be discussed further at tonight’s meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives in Brussels,” the statement added.

European Parliament president David Sassoli said European leaders should accept a Brexit extension until January 31.

UK shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon suggested Labour would back Mr Johnson’s calls for a general election if EU leaders agree to a Brexit delay into next year.

“If the EU responds by agreeing an extension of a number of months that means that Boris Johnson in that time can’t push us out through a no-deal Brexit,” the Labour frontbencher told BBC Breakfast.

“Given that Labour will be calling for a general election once a no-deal is off the table because actually it’s only a general election that can sort out Brexit because a Labour government would hold a public vote between a credible leave option and remain to finally sort this out.”

However, some in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet are thought to be wary that an outright election win for Mr Johnson could lead to a no-deal Brexit.

But the opposition leader, according to a report in The Sun, is said to have told MPs they “cannot afford to turn down another election request”.

A senior Liberal Democrat source said Jo Swinson’s party was “not scared” of a general election.

“Our priority remains getting a People’s Vote, but we are not scared of a general election.

“Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are Brexiteers, and we can’t wait to take them on and show the country that we can stop Brexit and build a brighter future.”

David Linden, MP for Glasgow East, said the SNP would “relish” an election “as soon as an extension is in place”.

There was anger in Downing Street yesterday after MPs rejected Mr Johnson’s plan to push through the legislation approving his deal with the EU in just three days by 322 votes to 308 – despite having given their approval, in principle, to his Brexit deal minutes earlier.

Mr Johnson’s decision to “pause” the legislation makes his promise to take Britain out of the EU by October 31 “come what may” difficult to fulfil and means Brexit could be delayed until next year.

The dramatic result in Parliament yesterday – which Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said left Brexit “in purgatory” – puts the British Prime Minister effectively at the mercy of EU leaders who will decide whether to grant Britain a further extension in order to pass a deal.

European Council president Donald Tusk said he would recommend they agree a further delay in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Johnson had begun calling EU leaders last night to tell them he would not accept a three-month delay, but has reportedly not ruled out approving a short extension of around 10 days to allow his deal to get through Parliament.

A Number 10 source indicated that if Mr Johnson was forced to accept a delay until the new year, he would push for a general election instead.

“On Saturday Parliament asked for a delay until January and today Parliament blew its last chance,” the source said.

“If Parliament’s delay is agreed by Brussels, then the only way the country can move on is with an election. This Parliament is broken.”

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