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Thursday, 24 October 2019

Boris Johnson throws down the gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn: PM challenges the Labour leader to face him in a general election on December 12 - and gives MPs just over a WEEK to get Brexit done first

  • Boris Johnson challenges Jeremy Corbyn to back snap election on December 12 
  • PM made clear he believes the EU will offer the UK a Brexit delay to January 31 
  • But Mr Johnson said the UK's Brexit 'nightmare' must not be allowed to continue 
  • If MPs back an election PM will then give them until November 6 to pass his deal
  • PM said if MPs refuse to back his accord, Brexit will have to be resolved by poll
  • EU due to make final decision on delay tomorrow but stage now set for election 
Boris Johnson today threw down the gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn as he challenged the Labour leader to back his bid for a general election on December 12 and the government braced for a long Brexit delay. 
Mr Johnson will hold a vote in the House of Commons on Monday on triggering a snap poll after telling Mr Corbyn the UK's Brexit 'nightmare' cannot be allowed to continue. 
The EU will make a decision tomorrow on how long to postpone Brexit for and the bloc is expected to push back the UK's departure date to January 31. 
Mr Johnson believes such an extension is unacceptable and as a result he has told MPs that if they back an election he will make time available for them to scrutinise and vote on his Brexit deal. 
MPs would effectively have until November 6 to pass the PM's Withdrawal Agreement Bill because at that point Parliament would dissolve in order for the election campaign to take place.
Number 10 believes that its offer will allow MPs to 'get Brexit done' if they are serious about actually doing so while the election would act as the ultimate protection against unending parliamentary delay. 
Should MPs fail to agree the deal by November 6, Mr Johnson would then fight the election on a pledge to pass his deal as soon as possible - if he wins a majority - and allow the UK to finally 'move on'.
In order to get the election he wants, Mr Johnson will need to win the support of two thirds of the MPs in the Commons. 
That means that all attention is now on Mr Corbyn and whether he will sign up to Mr Johnson's proposed weay forward. 
Mr Corbyn has twice blocked Mr Johnson from holding an early election but he has said previously that once a No Deal Brexit has been ruled out he would be willing to give his support to a snap poll. 
But his party is hopelessly split on whether there should be an election before Brexit is resolved with many Labour MPs terrified that Mr Corbyn's plan to stay neutral on the issue would see them get obliterated. 
Should Mr Corbyn fail to support the election push when the vote is held at the start of next week then the government is expected to shelve Mr Johnson's Brexit deal. 
Parliament would then be locked in Brexit purgatory with no agreement to vote on, no further negotiations with Brussels and no chance of leaving the EU until January 31 at the earliest.  
Mr Johnson told the BBC: 'The way to get this done, the way to get Brexit done, is I think to be reasonable with Parliament and say if they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal they can have it but they have to agree to a general election on December 12.' 
Under Mr Johnson's plans he would give MPs just over a week to scrutinise and vote on his deal if they support holding an early election. 
But he sounded a sceptical tone as he said he believed that all Parliament will do is 'waste more time'.  
In the letter to Mr Corbyn, the PM said: 'If the EU offers the delay that Parliament has requested - that is, we must stay in until 31 January - then it is clear that there must be an election. 
'We cannot risk further paralysis. In these circumstances, the Commons will vote next week on whether to hold an election on December 12. 
'This would mean that Parliament would dissolve just after midnight on 6 November.'
Mr Johnson told Mr Corbyn he believed it was their 'duty to end this nightmare and provide the country with a solution as soon as we reasonably can'. 
The PM said it would be his 'preference' for the EU to offer a short Brexit delay to November 15 or November 30 and that in those circumstances he hoped Labour would help him get his accord through the Commons. 
But he suggested a longer delay was more likely and as a result he said that if Labour backs a snap poll then the government 'will make available all possible time between now and 6 November' for key Brexit legislation to be passed.
Boris Johnson today challenged Jeremy Corbyn to back his bid for a general election on December 12 - and said he would give MPs the chance to get Brexit over the line first
Boris Johnson laid down the gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn in a letter sent to the Labour leader this evening
Boris Johnson laid down the gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn in a letter sent to the Labour leader this evening 
He even raised the prospect of the Commons sitting on Fridays, weekends and with early starts and late finishes. 
But he added: If Parliament refuses to take this chance and fails to ratify by the end of 6 November, as I fear it will, then the issue will have to be resolved by a new Parliament. 
'An election on 12 December will allow a new Parliament and Government to be in place by Christmas.
'If I win a majority in this election, we will then ratify the great new deal that I have negotiated, get Brexit done in January and the country will move on.' 
Mr Johnson ended the letter, also sent to other Westminster leaders, by claiming 'Parliament has refused to take decisions' and that it 'cannot refuse to let voters replace it with a new Parliament that can make decisions'. 
Addressing Mr Corbyn directly, he said: 'You have repeatedlty said that once the EU accepts Parliament's request for a delay until 31 January then you would immediately support an election. 
'I assume this remains your position and therefore you will support an election next week so thje voters can replace this broken Parliament.' 
The EU is expected to announce its decision on the terms of a Brexit delay tomorrow.
Downing Street believes that the bloc will offer a three month delay and if that happens the ball will be entirely in Labour's court.  
In order to win a vote on holding a general election Mr Johnson will need to secure the support of two thirds of MPs. 
Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz said after the election challenge was made that Labour 'will back an election once No Deal is ruled out'. 
Assuming that the EU offers a three month delay then No Deal will be off the table and there should be no barrier to Mr Corbyn backing Mr Johnson's call. 
However, even if he does it is unclear whether the Labour leader's MPs will obey him because there is growing opposition in the party about agreeing to an early election. 
Many Labour backbenchers fear the party will get decimated at an election if it sticks to its current policy of staying neutral on Brexit. 
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson's decision to pivot towards an election is unlikely to go down well with many of his Tory colleagues. 
He was warned by some Conservative backbenchers that an early election would see the Tories 'stuffed like Christmas turkeys'. 
Many Tory MPs fear that the party could lose seats in Scotland and London if a vote is held now, because of strong support for Remain in those areas as Mr Johnson pushes for Brexit. 
Some Tory backbenchers are deeply sceptical that the Conservatives will be able to win a majority at a snap poll – a point they have conveyed to Number 10. 
And many of Mr Corbyn's MPs are set to vote against any move to support Mr Johnson's wish, fearing an electoral disaster.
However, in a possible sign he could whip them to back a fixed-term parliament act (FTPA) motion next week, one of his most loyal frontbenchers said they would vote for an election as soon as possible. 
It comes after MPs handed EU leaders power over the timescale of UK politics, with a decision on how long the UK will remain tied to Brussels expected within days. 
One Conservative MP told MailOnline: 'There is not unalloyed enthusiasm on Tory benches for a general election. That has been fed in.'
Meanwhile a Tory source was even more downbeat as they said: 'If we go early we'll be stuffed like Christmas turkeys.' 
However, party chairman James Cleverly this morning said: 'I don't want to be the Grinch. 
'But the point is democracy is incredibly important and we have been prevented on discharging the duty imposed upon us.'
Many Tory MPs fear the party's hardline approach to Brexit could cost it seats in Scotland and in London and it is not clear where gains could be made. 
A Cabinet minister told The Sun: 'We'll lose seats in Scotland and London if it's all about Brexit, and I can't see where we'll pick them up. 
Even if Mr Johnson does decide to press for an early election there is no guarantee that he will succeed. 
Veteran left-winger Mr Corbyn has vowed to support the PM's call for a poll as soon as No Deal Brexit has been taken off the table.
But two-thirds of the Commons - 434 MPs - is needed to approve an early election.
And the 'nightmare' scenario of the party disintegrating emerged as big beasts Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and John McDonnell, who have previously resisted the idea of an early election, stayed ominously silent on the subject.
However Labour HQ has sent out a string of loyalists in recent days to play up the chances of the party backing an early election. 
This morning Rebecca Long-Bailey, seen as a potential successor to the 70-year-old opposition leader, said that such a move was Labour's 'position' in a radio interview this morning. 
Asked on the BBC's Today programme if Labour would vote for a general election as soon as the Prime Minister asks for one after the EU grants an extension, the shadow business secretary said: 'That's our position.
'But we also want the Prime Minister to look at the compromise that's been offered that a lot of MPs support, and that's the ability to be able to properly scrutinise the Bill.'
But John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, today appeared to cast doubt on the party's desire for an election as he suggested he wanted Mr Johnson to bring back his deal to the Commons for further scrutiny - even though Labour is opposed to it.
'We're in the process at the moment of trying to see whether or not this compromise we've offered to Boris Johnson will enable him to bring forward a proper programme motion (timetable),' he said.
It came after senior party figures told MailOnline that Mr Corbyn might not carry enough MPs to help Boris Johnson force a snap election even if he tries.
Frontbenchers fear that the scale of the rebellion by 'scared'' Labour MPs - many of whom are determined to hold a second referendum to cancel Brexit - would be so great that the motion will still be defeated.
Parliament effectively handed the EU control over the UK's destiny by voting down the PM's fast-track timetable for the Brexit Bill earlier this week.
That decision killed off the chances of the crucial legislation being passed in time for the October 31 deadline - and left Mr Johnson waiting to hear what extension Brussels will offer.
Despite protests from the premier, the Remainer Benn Act meant he was forced to send a letter on Parliament's behalf begging for a postponement at the weekend.
The bloc is not expected to give its verdict until at least tomorrow (Friday), with business at Westminster stalled.
Mr Johnson has insisted that if the EU offers a long extension he will go full-throttle for a snap election.
But he has already failed twice to get support for a ballot in the Commons, as Labour argued that the threat of an accidental No Deal was too serious.
In theory, Mr Corbyn's 245 MPs should be more than enough to reach the two-thirds threshold, when combined with 288 Tories, 35 SNP and 19 Lib Dems.
Just 100 Labour should be enough to guarantee the motion's success, but doubts have been raised over whether that would be possible. A recent meeting of the Parliamentary party was said to be 'unanimous' in saying that a second referendum must come before an election.
One shadow Cabinet minister told MailOnline: 'It is awful. He could try, but he probably won't have the numbers to get it over the line anyway.
'It just doesn't stack up.'
The shadow minister predicted that the leadership will wait till the last possible moment and hope events save them from having to make a decision.
'In principle an Opposition should always be wanting to face the electorate. That is pretty much our only reason for being.
'But a lot of people are scared of what will happen. Splitting the party that badly would be the nightmare.
'What is our excuse for not wanting an election? Once we have the extension, what are we going to say?'
The failure of another early election motion next week would take the turmoil at Westminster to a whole new level.
Mr Johnson faces losing a vote on the Queen's Speech today, meaning there will be no legislative programme.
In previous years that would be the end of a government, as it was a confidence issue.
But the Fixed Term Parliaments Act has laid waste to the constitution, stripping the PM of prerogative powers to seek a new mandate at a time of their choosing.
Instead, Parliament has chosen to prop up Mr Johnson - who is nowhere near having majority - in No10 and order the government to do its will by passing legislation.
Commons rules have been twisted with the help of Speaker John Bercow to facilitate the process, which effectively tears up the normal division of responsibilities between the legislature and executive.
There is no sign that Mr Corbyn or any other MP could put together a majority to become PM in this Parliament.

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