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Boris Johnson has new plan to hold elections despite MPs rejection

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the House of Commons, 28 October 2019.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the House of Commons, 28 October 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The British Prime Minister is expected to make a fresh attempt Tuesday to force an early election, despite a rejection by MPs. Boris Johnson announced an alternative plan that could yet see an election in early December.

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Johnson suffered a major setback earlier Monday when he was forced to agree to delay Britain's departure from the European Union beyond this week's 31 October deadline.

He was required by law to ask EU leaders for what is the third postponement, after MPs refused to endorse the divorce terms he struck with Brussels earlier this month.

Johnson, who does not have a majority in parliament, sought to regain the initiative by calling an election for 12 December, with a plan to persuade MPs to back his agreement before then.

New measure seeks opposition support

His initial proposal was defeated late Monday in the 650-seat House of Commons, as he failed to muster the required two-thirds of support needed.

But he immediately put forward a follow-up plan to legislate for a poll on 12 December, which would require only a simple majority to pass.

Johnson will be seeking the votes of some opposition MPs, such as those from the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, to get an early general election under the new measure.

"This house cannot any longer keep this country hostage," Johnson told MPs.

He added: "We have a great new (Brexit) deal, and it's time for voters to have a chance to pronounce on that deal and to replace this dysfunctional parliament with a new parliament that can get Brexit done."

Labour abstains from vote

The main opposition Labour Party abstained in Monday's ballot, meaning that despite 299 MPs voting in favour and only 70 voting against, the bill failed to get the required 434 votes to pass.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he did not trust Johnson and would not agree to a poll until the prospect of a no-deal exit from the European Union had been definitively ruled out.

Meanwhile, the European Union ambassadors have agreed to postpone Brexit for up to three months.

"The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK's request for a Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020," European Council President Donald Tusk said.

The extension will need to be formalised through a written procedure among the 27 other EU nations following agreement from the UK, a process likely to be concluded later this week.

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