LONDON — The British prime minister said Thursday he will give MPs more time to debate his Brexit deal if they agree to a December 12 general election.
“The way to get Brexit done is to, I think, be reasonable with parliament … if they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal they can have it but they have to agree to a general election on December 12,” Boris Johnson told TV broadcasters in an interview. “It is time, frankly, that the opposition summon up the nerve to submit themselves to the judgment of our collective boss, which is the people of the U.K.”
He will now put forward a motion Thursday evening under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which mandates that two-thirds of all 650 MPs must support it to trigger a snap vote. This is the third time Johnson has tried to secure an early election since taking office.
MPs will be asked to vote on the election motion Monday, after the EU has decided what Brexit extension to give the U.K. Johnson wrote to the EU last week requesting a delay until January 31, after being compelled to do so by MPs.
The Labour party and the Scottish National Party have said they will only support an election once a no-deal Brexit has been taken off the table.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told reporters earlier Thursday that instead of an election, he would prefer to agree a new timetable to scrutinize Johnson’s Brexit deal.
Even as events continued to unfold, fast and furious, in London, EU leaders were moving ahead with plans to extend the current October 31 Brexit deadline to avoid any chance of a chaotic no-deal departure by the U.K.
Council President Donald Tusk has urged EU27 leaders to approve an extension until January 31, as requested by Johnson’s letter.
EU diplomats are set to meet to discuss the extension on Friday, which they are hoping can be agreed without calling another leaders’ summit next week. Tusk’s proposal in many ways is designed to allow events to continue to shift in Westminster without ensnaring the EU in Britain’s internal politics.
To that end, the EU27 could just propose the extension on Friday. However, Brussels could also wait until next week to get a clearer sense of the U.K.’s plans. France, in particular, has said there should be a clear reason for an extension and a snap vote would seem to meet that demand.
Tusk’s office did not issue any immediate reaction to Johnson’s call for an election.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told reporters earlier Thursday that instead of an election, he would prefer to agree a new timetable to scrutinize Johnson’s Brexit deal. But he added: “I’m always up for an election whenever it comes and I’ve got my winter coat ready.”
In a letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Johnson said that Tusk has publicly and privately indicated that it is “likely” the EU will offer a Brexit delay until January 31, although a shorter extension is also possible.
An election on December 12 will allow a new parliament and government to be in place by Christmas, Johnson wrote.
“Given this situation, we must give the voters the chance to resolve this situation as soon as reasonably possible before the next deadline of 31 January. We cannot risk wasting the next three months then this farce being replayed with yet another delay in January 2020 and still no way for the country to move on,” the letter continues.
The letter added, MPs would be given “all possible time” to debate and vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill between now and November 6 — when parliament would be dissolved for the election campaign.
Johnson’s decision comes after he chaired a meeting of his so-called political Cabinet, a meeting of his ministers without civil servants, on Thursday afternoon.
The Commons also voted in favor of Johnson’s legislative program Thursday, although if the prime minister secures an election this vote becomes symbolic as he would propose a new policy plan should he win.
UK NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS