UK PM Johnson wages bruising battle in Parliament, Latest World News - The New Paper

UK PM Johnson wages bruising battle in Parliament

This article is more than 12 months old

He goads Labour leader to agree to election after losing motion to opposition lawmakers and Tory rebels

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday demanded an Oct 15 snap election after lawmakers seeking to prevent a no-deal Brexit dealt him a humiliating defeat in Parliament which he cast as an attempt to surrender to the European Union.

Parliament's move leaves Brexit up in the air, with possible outcomes ranging from a turbulent no-deal exit to abandoning the whole endeavour - both outcomes unacceptable to large swathes of Britain's voters.

An alliance of opposition lawmakers backed by 21 rebels from Mr Johnson's Conservative Party defeated the government on Tuesday on a motion allowing them to try to pass a law which would force a three-month extension to Britain's EU exit date.

Mr Johnson cast the rebellion as an attempt to surrender to the EU, vowed never to delay Brexit beyond Oct 31 and challenged opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to agree to an Oct 15 election.

"Can I invite the leader of the opposition to confirm, when he stands up shortly, that if that surrender bill is passed, he will allow the people of this country to have their view on what he is proposing to hand over in their name with an election on October the 15th," Mr Johnson told Parliament.

The vote on whether to have an election was scheduled to be held at 1800 GMT (2am, Singapore) time today.

Prior to that Mr Johnson kicked off his first questions in Parliament by goading Mr Corbyn for not backing a new general election.

At Prime Minister's Questions, a parliamentary session when lawmakers get to quiz the British leader every Wednesday, Mr Johnson used some choice language to attack Labour and try to rally his Conservatives after a bruising night on Tuesday.

After losing a vote on his Brexit plans late on Tuesday, Mr Johnson was keen to get on the front foot by accusing Mr Corbyn of supporting a policy of "dither and delay" over Brexit but also of running scared of his call for an early election on Oct 15.

"There's only one chlorinated chicken that I can see ... and he's on that bench," Mr Johnson said, pointing at Mr Corbyn, who has criticised the British leader's enthusiasm for a trade deal with the US over, among other things, concerns over food standards. He also appeared to shout at Mr Corbyn that he was a "great big girl's blouse" - a coward - over his decision to back an election only when a no-deal Brexit was off the agenda.

Mr Corbyn has repeatedly said he wants an election to ditch Mr Johnson's "phoney, populist cabal" but first seeks to see a move to stop the prime minister from leading Britain out of the EU without a deal embedded in legislation.

Opposition parties and rebels in Mr Johnson's party also said they would not allow a no-deal Brexit to be "smuggled" through under the cover of an election.

"We're not going to dance to his tune," said Mr Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour Party's point man on Brexit.

"We're not going to vote with Boris Johnson today to deprive ourselves of the opportunity to complete the business that we've just seized control of the house to do," he said. - REUTERS