Johnson To Push Snap Election Bill - But MPs Want Date And No-Deal Brexit 'Lock'

Lib Dems says government bill cannot risk crash-out during campaign period.

Boris Johnson will launch a fresh attempt to engineer a snap election before Christmas with a one-line bill, a Number 10 source has said.

MPs are set to vote down the prime minister’s motion on Monday for a December 12 poll, with many fearing the government could wrench the UK from the EU with no-deal during the campaign period.

But Johnson is now expected to bring forward legislation later this week in a new bid to get a snap poll.

The bill will be “almost identical” to one put forward by the Lib Dems and SNP at the weekend for a poll on December, a Downing Street source said - but it was not clear Jo Swinson’s party or others will back it.

Using legislation rather than a motion, under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, lowers the bar Johnson must clear from two-thirds to a simple majority of MPs.

A Lib Dem source said a Johnson-backed bill must offer a “triple lock” to MPs in that it rules out no-deal, does not force them to ram Johnson’s Brexit deal bill through parliament and sets in stone the election date.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen at Downing Street in London, Britain October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen at Downing Street in London, Britain October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson / Reuters

Labour, meanwhile, has said Johnson himself must offer an “unequivocal” guarantee to the Commons that he will not take the UK out of the EU without a deal - something he has ruled out in the past.

Opposition parties say they will not back today’s motion as Johnson may try to move the election date to engineer a no-deal Brexit while parliament is dissolved during the campaign period.

It comes as the EU granted a flexible extension to the Article 50 deadline on Monday, with parliament now having until January 31 to ratify a deal.

“The baseline [for us to back the bill] is there has to be a triple lock in there,” the Lib Dem source told reporters on Monday.

Britain's Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson
Britain's Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson

“So there has to be protection against a no-deal situation arising - that is important because you have the ‘flextension’ provisions and the extension has been granted.

“Secondly, don’t ask us to facilitate the ramming through of the withdrawal agreement bill in the Commons.

“Thirdly, the date of the election has to be stipulated in the bill. We are not prepared to leave it to the discretion of the government.”

The Lib Dems have confirmed they would abstain on any amendments to their bill on, say, extending voting rights to EU citizens or to people aged between 16 and 18 in order to fast-track the election bill through the Commons.

Experts predict no-deal will be catastrophic for the economy and at the UK’s ports and borders.

The Lib Dem source added that parliament must come to a decision quickly as EU leaders’ patience is wearing thin.

France’s Emmanuel Macron is among those who last week was said to be against offering the UK any further delay to Article 50, and each country has a veto.

“Be in no doubt, it is highly unlikely that a further extension is going to be granted beyond January 31,” the source said.

“That is the clear impression we have been given from our various contacts.”


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