British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost his parliamentary majority on Tuesday amid a sharp political standoff with rebel lawmakers from his conservative party who will try to block Brexit without an agreement, leading to early elections within weeks.
Johnson denounced MPs’ efforts to block his Brexit strategy as a “surrender” and said it would undermine his determination to negotiate a new withdrawal deal with the EU.
He said the move by opposition lawmakers and members of his conservative party to seek to postpone Brexit beyond October 31 if he did not agree with the conditions for going out with Brussels would be a “white flag”.
Ahead of a first vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday night, Johnson said, “I wouldn’t agree to such a thing under any circumstances”.
His aides had warned that defeat could prompt him to call early elections ahead of a crucial EU summit on October 17 and 18, just two weeks before Brexit.
The opposites believe they have the necessary number to impose the plan backed by the opposition Labor Party and the possibility of delaying Brexit until January 31.
In a defiant scene, conservative Rep. Philip Lee moved from his seat in the House of Commons, as Johnson was delivering his speech, to the ranks of the pro-European Liberal Democrats.
Thus, the prime minister no longer has a majority in the 650-seat council, but that doesn’t mean the government will fall automatically.
This can only happen if the Government loses confidence in a formal voting note.
On a day of developments, a court in Edinburgh heard a legal challenge to Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament next week for more than a month, which critics said was an effort to silence lawmakers.
Johnson took office less than six weeks ago, after his predecessor Theresa May was forced to resign for failing to pass the Brexit deal in parliament.
From the outset, Johnson has faced opposition from his own lawmakers, worried that his threat to leave the EU without an agreement with Brussels risks economic damage.
Former finance minister Philip Hammond was among those who joined the Labor Party to submit a text to force Johnson to seek a new postponement of Brexit.
The Nuba will first seek to put the text of the bill on parliament’s agenda for debate and request a vote on Tuesday evening.
If they can, they will present the bill on Wednesday and seek its approval in parliament before it suspends its work next week.
Johnson has rejected the proposed withdrawal but insists he wants to reach an agreement with Brussels to end Britain’s 46-year EU membership.
EU leaders have refused to renegotiate the current deal, but Johnson insists progress has been made and says that only with a credible threat of withdrawal can he secure a new deal.
But critics say there are no formal negotiations with Brussels.
A European Commission spokeswoman said on Tuesday she had not yet seen “concrete proposals” from London on how to change the existing agreement.
Johnson said he would meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Faradkar for the first time in Dublin next week to discuss Brexit.
Johnson has received support in opinion polls after his decision to suspend parliament on Brexit.
In early elections, Johnson could get a majority, which would be a big risk, given the fragmentation of the political landscape due to the 2016 referendum.
Johnson said he would need Labor support to call early elections, as the law requires the support of two-thirds of the deputies.
Labor leader Jeremy Corbin has often called for elections and warned that if the legislative path fails, it could be imposed by calling for confidence in the government.
But many Labor MPs fear an ambush.
Johnson’s aides insist any election will be held before Brexit, but some opponents fear the last-minute deadline could be postponed until after October 31.
That would make parliament unable to stop Brexit without agreement.