UK's Johnson loses working majority after Conservative lawmaker defects

Andrew Cummings
September 3, 2019

Dr Lee was among a list of at least 14 Tory MPs who had defied a threat from Downing Street to throw them out of the party in order to vote for measures to block a no-deal Brexit. Johnson threatened members of Parliament with a potential election Tuesday if they move to pass a bill forcing his government to ask European Union leaders for an extension if he is unable to strike a Brexit deal.

Johnson implicitly warned lawmakers on Monday that he would seek an election if they tied his hands in talks to negotiate a last-minute divorce deal, ruling out ever countenancing a further delay to Brexit, originally due to take place last March but now scheduled for October 31.

A member of Parliament defected from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party on Tuesday, costing the newly-elected leader his parliamentary majority.

MP Phillip Lee dramatically switched parties while Johnson spoke to Parliament on Tuesday, walking from the section of the room where Conservatives sit to those where Liberal Democrats sit, according to the Washington Post.

While making his G7 statement to the House of Commons, Johnson was forced to shout over the roars of support for Lee, an ardent Remainer, who took his seat with his new Lib Dem colleagues on the opposition benches. "Perhaps most disappointingly, it has increasingly become infected with the twin diseases of populism and English nationalism".

All three are opposing Johnson, with Hammond saying he expected a procedural vote to take control of business.


If the motion to introduce the bill is approved Tuesday evening, the opposition would formally put the question to the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Opinion polls suggest Johnson's decisive action on Brexit is popular with voters, and an election could help him increase his wafer-thin parliamentary majority.

This can only happen if the government loses a formal confidence vote.

"We are leaving on October 31, no ifs or buts", Johnson said in a statement outside 10 Downing Street, his official residence, on Monday.

They do not have much time, as Johnson has controversially chose to suspend parliament next week for more than a month - a decision that will be challenged in court in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

The technicalities over how parliament intends to stop Mr Johnson - and how the premier can trigger an early general election if it does - are as complex as the entire Brexit saga.


From the start, he faced opposition from his own MPs who fear his threat of leaving the European Union without an agreement with Brussels risks severe economic disruption.

But critics note that there are no formal negotiations with Brussels, and both sides have stepped up preparations for a disorderly divorce next month.

Johnson revealed that he would meet Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar for the first time in Dublin next week to discuss Brexit.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Tuesday that "I can't report any concrete proposals having been made that we have seen".

A no-deal Brexit is considered unsafe because it will sever decades of seamless trade with Europe's single market of 500 million people.


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