What options are left for British PM Boris Johnson on Brexit?

Cheryl Sanders
September 10, 2019

British lawmakers on Monday night voted to reject Prime Minister Boris Johnson's second bid for a snap general election, dealing another heavy blow to his Brexit strategy.

Although the government won the motion by a 293 - 46 vote, it nonetheless failed to reach the two-thirds majority of 434 under the fixed term parliament is required to call a general election.

British MPs are about to be sent home, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Government confirming it will suspend Parliament until October 14.

In Monday's vote, MPs also asked the government to publish communications, including WhatsApp messages and private emails, from certain advisers relating to Johnson's decision to suspend parliament for five weeks.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, champion of parliament in its move to rein in the prime minister over Brexit, took a veiled swipe at Johnson as he announced on Monday he would stand down from the role, issuing a warning to the government not to "degrade" parliament.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the lengthly suspension was for the Prime Minister to avoid scrutiny over his Brexit plans and he would not walk into "traps laid by this Prime Minister" in allowing a general election.

"While the opposition run from their duty to answer to those who put us here, they can not hide forever", he said.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned Johnson that "there's no such thing as a clean break", and if Britain crashed out, it would "cause severe disruption for British and Irish people alike".

The bill blocking a no-deal exit was one of a series of stinging parliamentary defeats for Johnson, a colorful and confounding politician who has been in office less than two months.

Johnson again rejected the second option on Monday evening.

So the premier must find a way around the law, or work to get a Brexit deal through Parliament.

His opponents last week denied his bid to secure a general election before the October 31 deadline for leaving the EU.

Mr Johnson has said he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than postpone Brexit, but has few easy ways out of it.

And finally, The Times reflects on a marathon sitting in Parliament, reflecting on the fact the the longest sitting of Parliament yet resulted in yet another humiliation for the new Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson had wanted an election on 15 October, hoping he would win enough seats in the Commons to force through his Brexit plan. Ministers have also hinted at a potential legal challenge against the law.

The EU negotiated a deal with his predecessor, Theresa May, that included a backstop provision that would have kept the border open by aligning Northern Ireland to EU regulations and keeping the rest of the United Kingdom within a form of the bloc's customs union.

Johnson appeared to have lost control of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union with the approval of the law, which obliges him to seek a delay unless he can strike a new deal at an EU summit next month.

Johnson acknowledged Monday that a no-deal Brexit "would be a failure of statecraft" for which he would be partially to blame.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson sits in the back of a vehicle as he leaves parliament in London, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. She said Mr Johnson had "already ruled out a Northern Ireland-only backstop".

Varadkar said he was open to any alternatives that were "legally workable", but none had been received so far.

For his part, Ian Blackford, leader of the opposition Scottish National Party in the House of Parliament, said that his party wants an election so Scotland will not be ignored.

He accused the opposition of running from their duties to the electorate to have a vote.

Bercow, known for his trademark roar of "Orderrrr!" announced Monday that he would step down at the close of business on October 31 after a decade in the speaker's post - a date deliberately chosen so that he would still be presiding as the deadline passed.

Under Johnson's premiership, Britain's three-year Brexit crisis has stepped up a gear, leaving financial markets and businesses bewildered by an array of political decisions that diplomats compare to the style of U.S. President Donald Trump.

"Throughout my time as speaker, I have sought to increase the relative authority of this legislature, for which I will make absolutely no apology", he said.

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