British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a parliamentary showdown over his bid to guide the United Kingdom out of the European Union by an October 31 deadline, with or without a divorce deal.
On their first day back after summer holidays, rebel and opposition MPs will attempt to seize control of the parliamentary agenda in order to introduce a bill forcing the prime minister to request a Brexit delay until January 31, 2020 – unless legislators approve a new withdrawal agreement, or vote in favour of a so-called no-deal departure by October 19.
If succesful, a vote on the proposed legislation, which comes in the run-up to a controversial weeks-long suspension of parliament from mid-September until mid-October, is expected to take place around 20:00 GMT.
Johnson’s administration has threatened to call a snap general election for October 14 if the bill is passed, and warned MPs from his own ruling Conservative Party they will be expelled for voting against the government.
Under UK law, two-thirds of parliamentarians must sign off on holding a general election for it to take place.
It’s unclear if the government would win such a vote, with senior figures in the main opposition Labour Party suggesting they would not vote in favour of a general election while a no-deal Brexit remains a possibility.
Here are all the latest updates:
Tuesday, September 3
Conservative MP defects, gov’t loses majority
MP Phillip Lee defected from the Conservative Party to join the opposition Liberal Democrats, leaving Johnson’s government without a working majority.
“This Conservative Government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways,” Lee said in a statement.
“It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom. More widely, it is undermining our country’s economy, democracy and role in the world,” he added, before accusing Johnson’s administration of “using manipulation, bullying and lies … in a deliberate and considered way”.
After a great deal of thought, I have reached the conclusion that it is no longer possible to serve my constituents’ and country’s best interests as a Conservative Member of Parliament. My letter to the Prime Minister: pic.twitter.com/0QreSbSdwR
— Dr Phillip Lee MP (@DrPhillipLeeMP) September 3, 2019
Opposition alliance bids to avert no-deal
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said opposition parties were “united” in working together on ways to stop Johnson from using an early election to force through a no-deal Brexit.
“We are confident that the legislative route we have adopted has every chance of being successful, and we are working on ways in which we can prevent Boris Johnson manipulating an election to force a no-deal Brexit,” Corbyn said in a statement after meeting the leaders of other opposition parties.
“Labour wants to prevent a no-deal Brexit, and to have a general election, so we can end austerity and invest in our communities. I am confident we can have both, and we’ve been in discussions about a way to achieve this,” he added.
Court hears suspension of parliament case
Johnson was looking to suspend parliament two weeks before this month’s planned shutdown was officially announced, a court was told.
The prime minister attracted controversy when he announced on August 28 he would suspend parliament from mid-September to mid-October to allow the government to announce a new legislative programme.
Political opponents, who argue it was simply a tactic to prevent them from trying to stop a no-deal Brexit, had already turned to Scotland’s highest civil court to ask it to rule that it would be illegal and unconstitutional for parliament to be suspended before the EU exit date.
At a hearing, the lawyer representing more than 70 legislators told Scotland’s Court of Session that two weeks before Johnson’s announcement, he was sent a note from an aide asking if he wanted to prorogue, or suspend, parliament from mid-September. A tick and the word “yes” was written on the document, lawyer Aidan O’Neill said.
Johnson declined to give a sworn statement to the court setting out his reasons for shutting down parliament.
Sterling sunk to a three-year low below $1.20 as Johnson’s implicit threat to legislator to back him on Brexit or face an election sent investors scrambling to dump British assets.
The pound, which has lost 20 percent of its value since Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, fell as low as $1.1959 before recovering.
Barring an October 2016 flash crash when sterling briefly reached $1.15, the British currency has not regularly traded at such levels since 1985, according to Refinitiv data cited by Reuters news agency.
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