The UK is on course for an election next month after MPs passed legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit, with both sides of the EU debate gambling on the outcome of a vote.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country had to go to the polls to decide “choose who goes to Brussels” after MPs voted by 327 to 299 to approve a bill forcing an extension to the UK’s 31 October Brexit date until there is a negotiated deal with the EU.
Mr Johnson told the Commons that parliament had “voted to stop, to scupper any serious negotiations” to secure a new Brexit deal.
“I think it’s very sad that MP’s have voted like this, I do, I think It’s a great dereliction of their duty,” he said.
“But if I’m still Prime Minister after Tuesday October 15, then we will leave on October 31 with, I hope, a much better deal.”
Despite warnings from within his own party, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would back Mr Johnson’s demand for an election as soon as the bill receives royal assent.
Senior figures including shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer, joined by Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, voiced fears that calling an election before an extension to the Article 50 period is implemented left the door open to a no-deal Brexit at the end of October.
The bill now moves to the House of Lords, where peers began debating yesterday afternoon and are expected to continue around the clock through until at least Friday, following an attempt by Conservatives to filibuster a timetable motion by attaching over 90 amendments.
It must clear the Lords without any new amendments by Monday in order to become law before a suspension of parliament ordered by Mr Johnson takes effect.
A motion put forward by the government calling an election under the Fixed Term Parliament Act was defeated last night after it failed to secure the necessary two-thirds support from the Commons.
However, with the backing of both Labour and the SNP, a general election is set to be called early next week, before the prorogation of parliament.
Addressing the Commons after the bill put forward by Labour MP Hilary Benn passed, Mr Corbyn said his party “look forward to turfing this Government out”.
“He has committed to renegotiate Brexit - but where is it? Where is the plan? Where are the proposals?” the Labour leader said.
“If he has a Brexit plan - be it No Deal or this new mystery proposed deal we are yet to see any detail of - then he should put it before the people in a public vote, a referendum or a general election and seek a mandate from them.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the SNP was “ready for an election”.
“We stand ready to bring down the Tory government and give Scotland the chance to stop Brexit and to decide its own future,” Mr Blackford said.
“Opposition parties must work with us to make sure we do not allow a government that has lost its majority, that does not command this House, and that has treated this Parliament and this country with contempt, to remain in office for one day more than is necessary.
“The Prime Minister is going to shut this Parliament down so he can spend four weeks running the clock down. We could instead use that time to run him out of office.”
Earlier, at his first session of Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson claimed that if Labour get into power, Mr Corbyn would “beg for an extension” from the EU and “accept whatever Brussels demands”.
The Prime Minister added: “By contrast, everyone will know that if I am Prime Minister, I will go to Brussels, I will go for a deal and get a deal but if they won’t do a deal we will leave anyway on 31 October.”