LONDON — MPs today rejected the government’s attempt to trigger a snap election on December 12.
The House of Commons voted down the motion, with just 299 of 650 MPs backing it. A two-thirds majority was required for it to pass. Labour refused to back the proposal, saying it would only vote for an election once a no-deal Brexit was taken off the table.
This is the third time Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tried and failed to force an early election since he took office. This latest attempt would have dissolved parliament on November 6, giving MPs a few more days to consider his Brexit deal.
“I simply do not believe that this house is capable of delivering on the priorities of the people, whether that means Brexit or anything else,” Johnson told the Commons ahead of the vote. “It is frankly time for the leader of the opposition to move his rusty Trabant from the yellow box junction where it is currently blocking progress.”
“He says he wants an election on December, but how can we trust him that he will stick to that date when we do not have legal confirmation of the extension,” Jeremy Corbyn responded. “Quite simply I do not trust the prime minister.”
Under U.K. law, a prime minister needs a two-thirds majority to call an election under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which was passed on 2011.
However, there are other routes to an election, including if MPs back a one-line bill setting an election date in law or if they vote no confidence in the government. A No. 10 official said last week that the government would explore “all avenues” to trigger a snap poll. Both these approaches only need a simple majority to trigger a vote.
The Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats have said they will put forward a bill to trigger an election on December 9. The parties favor a shorter timeline so that it is more difficult for Johnson to get the U.K. parliament to ratify his Brexit deal, which would pull Britain out of the European Union, before the election. They wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk over the weekend, urging the EU to delay Brexit until January 31 for that purpose.
Tusk announced that the extension, which Johnson had requested having been compelled to by the U.K. parliament, had been agreed by the EU27 on Monday morning.
A No. 10 official said earlier today that the plan for an election on December 12 was rejected, the government would introduce a general election bill almost identical to one proposed by the Liberal Democrats and SNP.
This is a riskier route for the government because the one-line bill could be amended, for example to extend the franchise to 16- and 17-year-olds or to EU citizens.