House of Commons, Again, Rejects Johnson’s Call for Snap Election

  • Only 293 members of the House of Commons voted in favor of Johnson's request for early elections, far short of 434 votes required.
  • Government ministers described the law as "bad," and said they would test it "to the maximum extent possible."
  • MPs approved the publication of government correspondence to suspend parliament work and documents on Operation Yellowhammer, the government's contingency plan in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.

The House of Commons voted for the second time to reject the government’s request for early general elections.The vote comes on the last day of Parliament’s work before a five-week suspension, at the request of the government, until October 14. Members of Parliament will have no further opportunity to vote on any early elections until the end of the suspension period, which means that elections cannot be held until at least late November.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 introduced fixed-term elections to the Westminster parliament for the first time, as a result of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement which was produced after the 2010 general election. General elections are to be held five years after the last, unless the government loses a vote of no confidence or 2/3 of members agree to early elections.

In the past, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his determination to leave the European Union by the deadline of October 31st, whether or not an agreement was signed with the EU. Brexit without agreement would mean the immediate departure of the United Kingdom from the customs union, the single market, and arrangements designed to facilitate trade.

At the end of last month, the Johnson government asked Queen Elizabeth II to suspend, or prorogue, the House of Commons. However, lawmakers opposed to a No-Deal Brexit voted a week ago to seize control of the House agenda, which is usually set by the government, then passed new legislation blocking such an exit. The new law requires the Prime Minister to ask the EU to postpone the date of exit if the government does not reach an agreement by October 19.

Johnson responded by calling for early elections.  However, needing a 2/3 vote in the House, MPs rejected the call. Johnson returned to Parliament on Monday with the same request. The new vote followed a stormy parliamentary session, in which opposition leaders accused Johnson of calling an election to secure Brexit without an agreement on October 31. Only 293 members of the House of Commons voted in favor of Johnson’s request for early elections, far short of 434 votes required.

Earlier, opposition lawmakers said they would not support the Prime Minister’s bid for early elections on October 15, stressing the need to enforce the new law that would prevent Britain from leaving the EU without an agreement. Johnson faced warnings that he could face legal action if he did not comply with the law blocking exit without agreement. Government ministers described the law as “bad,” and said they would test it “to the maximum extent possible.”

At present, British law stipulates that Britain will leave the European Union on October 31, whether or not an exit agreement is reached with Brussels. The new legislation, which received royal ascent on Monday, changes that, requiring the Prime Minister to ask the EU to postpone the exit until January 31, 2020, unless parliament approves an agreement, or exits without agreement by October 19.

Operation Yellowhammer is the codename used by the UK Treasury for cross-government civil contingency planning for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. On September 3, 2019, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, whose responsibilities include preparations for a no-deal Brexit, said in the House of Commons, “Operation Yellowhammer assumptions are not a prediction of what is likely to happen, they are not a best-case scenario or a list of probable outcomes, they are projections of what may happen in a worst-case scenario.”

The Prime Minister said the government would use the coming period to continue negotiating an agreement with the EU, while “preparing for an exit without agreement.” Earlier, Johnson considered the election the only way out of the stalemate in the House of Commons on how to get out of the European Union.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, told lawmakers that he would like to hold elections. “But with the will, we are not prepared to risk the disastrous catastrophe that would harm our societies, jobs, services and rights.”

Hours before voting on the government’s request for early elections, the Prime Minister suffered another defeat in the House of Commons. By 311 votes to 302, MPs approved the publication of government correspondence to suspend parliament work and documents on Operation Yellowhammer, the government’s contingency plan in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.


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