Brexit: MPs to hold ‘last chance’ vote on early election

Houses of Parliament with EU flags Image copyright EPA

The government is to ask MPs to agree to a snap election for a second time, in what could be one of Parliament’s last acts before being suspended.

No 10 has billed Monday’s vote as Labour’s “last chance” to secure an early general election.

But the government is expected to face a fresh defeat, with opposition parties wanting their law aimed at avoiding no-deal to be implemented first.

Boris Johnson is also due to meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin.

The prime minister first called for a snap election after MPs – including rebel Tories – voted in favour of a bill requiring him to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline of 31 October if a deal is not reached before 19 October.

That bill is set to gain royal assent and become law on Monday, but has been criticised by ministers as “lousy” and weakening the government’s negotiating position with Brussels.

Downing Street said Monday’s vote, which comes ahead of this week’s shutdown of Parliament, was Labour’s last chance to win its own mandate from the public to delay Brexit.

But the motion, which requires the support of two-thirds of MPs, was defeated for a first time last week and is expected to fail again.

‘Test to the limit’

As Mr Johnson continues to press for an election, ministers have said they will “test to the limit” the new law aimed at averting no-deal.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government would abide by the law but will “look very carefully” at its “interpretation” of the legislation.

One plan under discussion is to formally request the extension while sending a second document making it clear the UK government does not want one.

Another potential option is to ask a sympathetic EU member to veto an extension.

France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said his country would not be able to support another Brexit delay “in the current circumstances”.

It comes after Amber Rudd resigned as work and pensions secretary at the weekend, saying the government was spending 80-90% of its time on no-deal planning rather than trying to reach an agreement with the EU.

She told the BBC there was “very little evidence” the government would get a new Brexit deal, and when she asked for details of the efforts she received a “one-page summary”.

‘Serious about a deal’

Writing in the Daily Mail, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said “watching talented colleagues walking away from the cabinet table is never easy”, but she also backed Mr Johnson.

She said the public was “exhausted and fed up” with “endless delays” and said that the no-deal option had to be kept on the table.

But Ms Morgan said “the prime minister now needs to show he’s serious about getting a deal” and the government needed to display more transparency about its efforts.

An alternative to the Irish backstop, the insurance policy that prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland, is key to striking a deal, Ms Morgan added.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption “I don’t anticipate a big breakthrough,” Irish PM Leo Varadkar said ahead of Mr Johnson’s visit

The UK government wants the backstop scrapped, because it would effectively keep the UK in the European customs regime and tie Northern Ireland to the rules of the single market.

But Ireland maintains the backstop, which comes into force if the UK does not agree a free trade deal with the EU, is the only way to avoid checkpoints.

Mr Johnson’s meeting in Dublin will be his first with the Irish taoiseach since he became prime minister.

But ahead of the visit Mr Varadkar played down expectations of an imminent solution to the border issue.

“I don’t think the meeting tomorrow is a high stakes meeting, as I don’t anticipate a big breakthrough tomorrow,” he said.

If an agreement is struck, it is more likely to happen in October at the EU summit, Mr Varadkar said.

The Irish prime minister has said he is open to a solution involving a backstop which only applies to Northern Ireland.

But the Democratic Unionist Party – Mr Johnson’s allies in Parliament – strongly opposes the idea.



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