Brexit: Boris Johnson to seek general election if EU offers three-month delay

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The Prime Minister has vowed to push for an election if EU leaders sanction a Brexit extension of up to three months.

Boris Johnson must now wait to hear from the heads of the EU27 after his plans to fast-track his Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the Commons before the Halloween deadline hit the buffers.

Protesters campaign against Brexit

Protesters campaign against Brexit

There was anger in Downing Street after MPs last night rejected Mr Johnson's plan to push through the legislation approving his deal with the EU in just three days by 322 votes to 308.

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The development makes Mr Johnson's promise to take Britain out of the EU by 31 October "come what may" difficult to fulfil and means Brexit could be delayed until next year.

Brexit now 'in purgatory'

On a dramatic night in Westminster, the Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said Brexit was now "in purgatory where it is suffering the pains of those in purgatory".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaving 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaving 10 Downing Street

Mr Rees-Mogg added it is "very hard to see how it is possible" for the Bill to pass through the Commons and the Lords before 31 October.

The result leaves the Prime Minister effectively at the mercy of EU leaders who will decide whether to grant Britain a further extension, and for how long, to allow it to leave with a deal.

Tusk will recommend extension

European Council president Donald Tusk said he would recommend they agree a further delay to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

European Council president Donald Tusk talks with other EU leaders

European Council president Donald Tusk talks with other EU leaders

The Daily Telegraph reported Mr Johnson had begun calling EU leaders last night to tell them he would not accept a three-month delay, but had reportedly not ruled out approving a short extension of around ten days to allow his deal to get through Parliament.

A No.10 source indicated that if the Prime Minister was forced to accept a delay until the new year, he would push for a general election instead.

"On Saturday Parliament asked for a delay until January and today Parliament blew its last chance," the source said.

"If Parliament's delay is agreed by Brussels, then the only way the country can move on is with an election. This Parliament is broken."

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Brussels to reveal its position soon

David Lidington, former prime minister Theresa May's defacto deputy while in office, said it would be revealed soon whether there was "disagreement" in Brussels over a Brexit extension.

"I think the EU will want to make sure they don't get the blame for any crashing out to no-deal and will offer an extension," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I suspect the argument is going to be, do they go short with the deadline as there are some indications President Macron would prefer, or is the safe play simply going to be 'oh well, you asked for 31 January, so let's give you until 31 January'.

"I think we will know fairly soon if they have to meet in person rather than deal with this via the written procedure that President Tusk suggested. That will indicate whether there has been a disagreement."

Brexit legislation 'paused'

Following last night's vote on Brexit, Mr Johnson said he would "pause" the legislation while he consulted with EU leaders on what should happen next.

Just minutes earlier MPs voted to back the deal in principle by 329 to 299 on the second reading of the Bill, the first time the Commons has been prepared to support any Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister expressed "disappointment" they had not been prepared to follow it up by agreeing the timetable motion.

He insisted it was still his policy that Britain should leave at Halloween, but acknowledged he would have wait to hear what EU leaders said.

Under the terms of the so-called Benn Act, Mr Johnson was forced to write to the EU at the weekend seeking an extension to the end of January after failing to win the support of the Commons at Saturday's special sitting.

Before the vote, Mr Johnson had threatened to pull the whole Bill and go for a general election if the timetable motion was lost but he is yet to outline how he would go about it.

Corbyn's 'reasonable' timetable

Jeremy Corbyn said Labour was prepared to work with the Government to agree "a reasonable timetable" to enable the Commons to debate and scrutinise the legislation properly.

"That would be the sensible way forward, and that's the offer I make on behalf of the opposition tonight," he said.

The Labour leader's offer potentially opens the way for Parliament to approve the Bill before the end of the year.

It also opens up increased opportunities for MPs to seek to amend the legislation in ways the Government would find unacceptable.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said he thought the EU would grant a three-month extension. Speaking on BBC's Newsnight, he said: "There's no excuses now for Jeremy Corbyn not to give us that general election."

Asked about Mr Johnson's "do-or-die" promises to deliver Brexit on 31 October, he said: "Everyone will have seen the way that Boris Johnson has tried to get Brexit across the line on the 31 October."

He said that date was ruled out last night, adding: "We're going to have to have an extension."