London – Is Britain headed for a general election next month?
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has tabled a motion in parliament to call for an election after lawmakers voted against his hardline Brexit strategy but the outcome of Wednesday’s showdown is far from certain.
– Why now?
Johnson took office six weeks ago promising to deliver on the 2016 referendum vote for Brexit, and take Britain out of the EU on October 31 whatever happens.
He says he wants to agree amicable exit terms with Brussels but, if this is not possible, insists that Britain should leave the bloc anyway.
But a majority of MPs, including 21 members of his own Conservative party, voted on Tuesday evening to begin a process aimed at stopping a “no deal” scenario.
Johnson says he does not want an election but it could end up being his only option if MPs undermine his strategy.
MPs move to block no-deal Brexit
– How can he call an election?
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, elections should take place every five years. But if two-thirds of MPs agree, a poll can be held earlier.
Johnson has tabled a motion on Wednesday using the form of words specified in the law: “That there should be an early parliamentary general election”.
Addressing MPs after his defeat on Tuesday, he said it would be put to a vote if they decided to go ahead with their plan to block a “no deal” Brexit.
– When will the election be held?
The motion to call a vote does not include a date, and the decision is up to Johnson.
His spokesman said on Tuesday: “If any election did take place, it would be before the European Council”, a formal meeting of EU leaders on October 17 and 18.
The meeting is the final chance to get a deal before Brexit.
– Will MPs support it?
Johnson does not have a majority in the House of Commons, so will have to rely on opposition MPs to support his call for an election.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been demanding a vote for months, hoping to take office.
But he said he would only support Johnson’s call if the cross-party proposal to block “no deal” succeeded first.
Some Labour MPs fear Johnson may not stick to the promised date for the poll and might wait until after October 31 as a way of forcing through a “no deal” departure.
– Would parliament be dissolved immediately?
Not necessarily. If MPs vote for an election, the prime minister would recommend a date to Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, who would then issue a royal proclamation.
Parliament will be dissolved 25 working days before the declared election date, although it could be suspended a few days before the legal limit.
Britain’s political system
– Would an election stop a ‘no deal’ Brexit?
The parliamentary vote on Tuesday that triggered Johnson’s election call paves the way for opposition MPs to pass legislation that would block a “no deal” Brexit.
They do not have much time, as Johnson had already controversially announced he would suspend parliament from next week until October 14.
But if they succeed in getting the law passed in the Commons and the Lords, it would be binding on any government that wins the next election.
– Are there any other routes to an election?
The political impasse over Brexit has led many commentators to believe an election is inevitable in the next few months.
If MPs refuse to back Johnson’s call this week, Labour could still seek to force an election at a later date by calling a confidence vote in his government.
If defeated, the government would have 14 days to show it has the support of a majority of MPs before having to call a snap poll.
By Alice Ritchie