A defiant Boris Johnson today suggested he will not ask the EU to delay Brexit even if he is legally required to do so as opposition leaders agreed to work together to block the PM’s bid to trigger an early general election.
A rebel anti-No Deal law is expected to make its way onto the UK statute book on Monday after the House of Lords backed it this afternoon.
It will force the premier to seek a Brexit extension if Brussels and Britain have not struck an agreement in the run up to October 31.
Yesterday Mr Johnson said he would rather be ‘dead in a ditch’ than delay the UK’s departure from the bloc.
Today he was asked if he would not seek an extension even if it is set out in law that he must and he replied: ‘I will not. I don’t want a delay.’
His answer is likely to be interpreted in one of two ways: He will either defy the law or resign. The former would appear almost unthinkable for a prime minister and would spark a political, legal and constitutional firestorm.
If he were to resign, the Queen would ask MPs if anyone else could form a government capable of commanding a majority in the Commons and if the answer was no there would have to be an election. The law would still dictate that a Brexit delay must be sought, with a poll likely to then be held in November.
It came as Jeremy Corbyn and the other leaders of the ‘Rebel Alliance’ agreed to combine forces to stop Mr Johnson forcing an early general election on Monday.
Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and Plaid Cymru will either vote against the government or abstain when Mr Johnson holds a crunch vote at the start of next week in a bid to go to the country on October 15.
The Prime Minister will need the support of two thirds of the House of Commons to succeed but with the opposition now all on the same page his attempt at triggering a snap poll appears doomed to failure.
That could leave the PM stuck in Number 10 but unable to deliver a No Deal Brexit on October 31 and he could be forced to resign rather than break his ‘do or die’ pledge.
Mr Johnson today declined to rule out resigning if he fails to deliver Brexit by the current deadline as he embarked on a visit to Scotland.
He said: ‘That is not a hypothesis I’m willing to contemplate. I want us to get this thing done.’
Downing Street is believed to be considering a fall-back option if the bid on Monday fails which would see it introduce a new, very short piece of legislation calling for an election and setting a date.
Such a course of action would enable the government to skirt the two thirds majority rule set out in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act with a simple majority enough to get it through.
But it would be a risky move because the draft law would be amendable so rebel MPs could hijack it and set their own poll date for after October 31.
Mr Johnson’s comments came as he suffered another photo call calamity when a bull he was leading on a rope overpowered him at a farm in Aberdeenshire and charged into a plain clothes police officer.
Mr Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds will stay with the Queen at Balmoral Castle tonight before he tries again at the start of next week to force an election before the Brexit deadline.
Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds were spotted leaving an Aberdeen hotel this afternoon as they headed to Balmoral for an audience with the Queen. The PM and his partner are due to stay overnight.
Mr Johnson had earlier spent time at the Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen as he tried to forget about his political week from hell but suffered a fresh calamity as the bull he was leading on a rope bumped into a plain clothes police officer
Earlier, the Prime Minister had kicked off his visit to Scotland with a tour of the Peterhead Fish Market
Mr Johnson will be joined at Balmoral by his girlfriend Carrie Symonds who was pictured arriving at Aberdeen Airport this afternoon
Will Boris Johnson be forced to resign as PM?
Boris Johnson has vowed to deliver Brexit ‘do or die’ and with or without a deal on October 31.
But with Parliament set to pass an anti-No Deal law and block an early general election, the PM could soon be forced to make a difficult decision.
Assuming he is unlikely to strike a Brexit deal with the EU before Halloween, he could soon have to choose between complying with the law to seek a Brexit delay (breaking his Brexit pledge) and resigning as PM.
If he was to go back on his word and postpone Brexit the Tories will be eaten alive at the ballot box.
He has promised he will not seek a Brexit delay in any circumstances
That means he may have no choice but to resign at some point before October 31.
Mr Johnson’s Brexit difficulties were today illustrated in a new poll by ICM which puts the Tories at 37 per cent and Labour trailing on 30 per cent – a large enough lead to potentially give the Conservatives a majority – when people were asked how they would vote at a snap election before Halloween.
But Tory support dipped to 28 per cent – tied with Labour – when people were asked how they would vote in an election held after the current departure date.
Much of the lost Tory support in the second scenario appears to jump to the Brexit Party and the new numbers are likely to intensify calls for Mr Johnson to strike an electoral pact with Nigel Farage.
Mr Farage has said he will only consider an alliance with the PM if he agrees to pursue a ‘clean break’ No Deal Brexit from the EU on October 31.
A rebel anti-No Deal law is expected to receive Royal Assent on Monday after peers agreed to its passage today.
It will require the PM to seek a Brexit delay beyond October 31 if Britain and Brussels have not struck an agreement in the run up to Halloween.
Opposition parties plan to withhold their support for a snap poll until a delay has actually been agreed with the EU, likely at a European Council meeting on October 17, potentially putting the UK on course for a nationwide vote in November.
Monday: Boris tries to call an election
Block No Deal bill becomes law
Tuesday: Parliament suspended
October 15: Parliament returns
October 19: Law compels PM to ask for a Brexit delay if no deal is done
October 31: Boris’s Brexit deadline
November: Labour’s favoured month for an election
January: New Brexit date if leaving the EU is dleayed
Monday’s vote will be the government’s second attempt at forcing an early election after the PM’s first try failed this week.
But with Labour, the SNP and other opposition parties now in agreement that they will not support a poll before the end of October at the earliest, Mr Johnson is likely to be scuppered.
The set back to Mr Johnson’s hopes of forcing an early election came as he signalled there could be a path back to the Conservative Party for the 21 rebels he stripped of the whip this week after they voted to block No Deal.
Speaking in Scotland, he told reporters: ‘Yes of course I’m going to reach out to those colleagues and have been reaching out to them to try and find ways of building bridges but I’ve got to be clear we must get Brexit done and that’s my message to my colleagues.’
Separately, the High Court today rejected a legal challenge which sought to overturn Mr Johnson’s move to suspend Parliament until October 14. Parliament is due to be prorogued at some point next week.
However the case brought by anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller and backed by Sir John Major and Labour could still be taken to the Supreme Court for an appeal.
Mr Johnson has vowed to deliver Brexit ‘do or die’ and with or without a deal on October 31 and has repeatedly said he will not in any circumstances ask Brussels for an extension.
Arch-Remainer Gina Miller LOSES her bid to scupper Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament
Pro-EU campaigner Gina Miller has lost her legal bid to scupper Boris Johnson’s planned suspension of Parliament.
Mrs Miller, who is backed by former PM John Major, had urged London’s High Court to rule that Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was an ‘unlawful abuse of power’.
But three of the country’s top judges today rejected the case, meaning the suspension of Parliament, planned to start next week, can go ahead.
The court win is a victory for Boris Johnson, but with his plans for Britain to leave the EU by the end of October now shrouded in uncertainty, it is unlikely the Prime Minister will be celebrating.
But if MPs block an election again and a No Deal split becomes impossible, Mr Johnson may have no other choice but to quit.
Mr Johnson will be hoping his visit with the monarch this evening will help him forget about a difficult day yesterday.
His brother Jo quit the Cabinet, he was heckled by members of the public and he prompted controversy for using a wall of police officers as the backdrop for what critics labelled a ‘political stunt’ speech.
Separately, Mr Johnson was facing growing pressure to restore the whip to 21 Remainer rebels as ex-Cabinet minister Sir Michael Fallon said there should be ‘some kind of appeal mechanism’.
The PM failed in a bid earlier this week to force an early election as Mr Corbyn and other opposition leaders failed to back the move.
Mr Johnson tabled a motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which requires the support of two thirds of MPs in order for a poll to be called.
But he fell far short of the magic number of 434 MPs as Labour and other parties abstained.
An ICM Research poll showed Boris Johnson could win an election and secure a majority if it is held before October 31, left. But if he is made to wait until after October 31, and Brexit is delayed, Mr Johnson could see support for the Tories dip nine per cent
Jeremy Corbyn, pictured leaving his London home this morning, today agreed with the leaders of the other opposition parties to oppose Mr Johnson’s plan to trigger an early general election on Monday
Pro-EU campaigner Gina Miller has lost her legal bid to scupper Boris Johnson’s planned suspension of Parliament. Remainer Gina Miller has vowed to fight on in her bid to stop the suspension of Parliament
New poll came amid growing anger over PM’s speech in front of police in Yorkshire yesterday. Senior police figures have called on Mr Johnson to apologise for using the officers as the backdrop to a ‘political speech’
Rachel Johnson delivers fresh sibling set back to brother Boris
The PM was dealt a major body blow yesterday as his brother Jo resigned from the government and said he could not square ‘family loyalty and the national interest’ over Brexit.
Now the premier’s sister has revealed that he is ‘outnumbered’ around the family dinner table over whether the UK should leave the EU and that they can no longer discuss the issue.
Ms Johnson said she often sent her brother text messages to urge him to ‘climb down’ over his ‘do or die’ Brexit pledge but that her pleas fell on deaf ears.
Mr Johnson responded to the set back by telling opposition MPs to reflect over the weekend on his claim that the current stalemate in Parliament is ‘unsustainable’.
Yesterday Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons Leader, confirmed the government will try again on Monday and hold a repeat vote on forcing an election.
Mr Corbyn had said that once an anti-No Deal bill has become law he would back an election.
But opposition leaders have now agreed to try to trap Mr Johnson in Downing Street for all of October and force him to choose between breaking his ‘do or die’ promise and resigning.
Mr Corbyn and the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford held secret talks yesterday when they agreed not to allow an election to be held before October 19.
Their agreement was then backed by other opposition leaders today as the Remain Alliance flexed its muscles.
A Lib Dem spokeswoman confirmed opposition parties would work together to abstain or vote against the government on Monday.
She said: ‘We were all clear we are not going to let Boris Johnson cut and run. The Liberal Democrat position for a while now is that we won’t vote for a general election until we have an extension agreed with the EU. I think the others are coming round to that. As a group we will all vote against or abstain on Monday.’
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts also confirmed the move, telling the BBC: ‘We were in unity in our opinion, our priority is of course to stop a No Deal Brexit.
‘In the short time we need to make sure that we get past the 31st October and an extension to Article 50.
Chief constable condemns Boris Johnson over ‘political’ speech
Boris Johnson has been condemned by the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police after the Prime Minister used his officers as the backdrop to a speech which critics labelled a ‘political stunt’.
John Robins said it had been his understanding that his uniformed cadets would be involved in an event focused ‘solely’ on the government’s drive to boost police numbers.
He said he was ‘disappointed to see my police officers as a backdrop to the part of the speech that was not related to recruitment’.
Mr Johnson’s used the address to repeatedly lash out at Jeremy Corbyn for failing to back an early general election.
The decision to assemble such a large number of police for a televised speech prompted suggestions that the move was straight out of ‘Donald Trump’s playbook’.
‘Now in that respect we were in agreement that the Prime Minister is on the run. Boris is broken.
‘We have an opportunity to bring down Boris, to break Boris and to bring down Brexit, and we must take that.’
Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, said Labour would block an early election until the party is ‘absolutely sure’ that the UK cannot crash out of the EU without a deal on October 31.
A Labour Party spokesman said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn hosted a positive conference call with other opposition party leaders this morning.
‘They discussed advancing efforts to prevent a damaging no-deal Brexit and hold a general election once that is secured.’
Paul Scully, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, said: ‘This week Jeremy Corbyn has voted for the British government to surrender its negotiating position and delay yet again.
‘Now he’s broken his promise to the people to hold an election and is stopping the voters deciding who goes to Brussels on 17 October to negotiate.
“Labour are blocking this country from moving on and refuse to be held to account for it.’
The opposition thinking is that by delaying an election until November, Mr Johnson will be forced to seek an extension – as required by law – if he wants to remain in Downing Street.
Such an outcome would likely lead to Mr Johnson and the Tories being eaten alive by Mr Farage and the Brexit Party.
Today’s poll by ICM Research appears to confirm that Mr Johnson will be in enormous trouble politically if he does backtrack on his Brexit promise – something he is adamant he will not do.
Westminster voting intention for an election before October 31 put the Tories on 37 per cent, Labour on 30 per cent and the Brexit Party on just nine per cent.
But for an election after October 31 the Tories were on 28 per cent and so were Labour while the Brexit Party were on 18 per cent.
Mr Johnson suffered a difficult day yesterday as his political week went from bad to worse.
His brother Jo blindsided Number 10 by announcing his resignation from the Cabinet despite a late night phone call from the PM urging him not to quit.
Emily Thornberry confirms Labour will block election vote on Monday
Emily Thornberry today confirmed Labour will block Boris Johnson’s attempt on Monday to force an early general election.
The shadow foreign secretary said Labour needed to be ‘absolutely sure’ that the UK will not crash out of the EU without a deal before it backs a snap poll.
Her comments suggest Labour will wait until a Brexit delay has been agreed with the EU to stop a chaotic split on October 31 before giving the PM the support he needs to go to the country early.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that while the offer of an early election was ‘extremely attractive’ the ‘immediate crisis in front of us… has to be sorted before we do anything else’.
‘Unfortunately, given the behaviour of the Prime Minister and his advisers, we need to be absolutely sure that we are not going to end up in a situation where the general election is used as a distraction while they, by some cunning wheeze, bounce us out of the European Union without a deal,’ she said.
Jo Johnson dealt his sibling a major body blow as he said he could not square ‘family loyalty and the national interest’ over Brexit.
The PM then tried to put a brave face on his brother’s bombshell decision as he praised Jo as a ‘fantastic guy’ and a ‘brilliant minister’.
He tried to downplay the significance of his brother’s departure as he told reporters following a speech in Yorkshire that the pair disagreed on Brexit – just like many other families across the UK.
Jo Johnson said this morning that he wished his brother ‘all the best’ and insisted he wanted ‘this government to succeed in what it is doing’.
The PM’s address to the nation sparked controversy as he stood in front of a wall of police officers and repeatedly attacked Mr Corbyn.
Labour accused the PM of a ‘completely unacceptable political stunt’ while senior police figures said Mr Johnson should apologise for using officers for what critics described as a ‘Donald Trump-style photo op’.
John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, led the criticism of the premier as he said he was ‘surprised’ that officers had been used ‘for a political speech’.
He told The Times: ‘I am sure that on reflection all concerned will agree that this was the wrong decision and it is disappointing that the focus has been taken away from the recruitment of 20,000 officers.’
Yvette Cooper, Labour the chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee and Yorkshire MP, said it was ‘completely unacceptable’ for Number 10 to have drafted in the officers.
Jo Johnson, pictured this morning, shocked Westminster yesterday as he resigned from the government over Brexit
Dominic Cummings, pictured leaving his London home today, has been accused
‘This is an abuse of power by Boris Johnson, making so many police stop their training and work to be part of his political stunt,’ she said.
‘They have a job to do here in West Yorks, and they train and work hard for the whole community – completely unacceptable to use them in this way.’
Mr Johnson was then reprimanded by a member of the public as he met voters in Leeds.
The PM appeared lost for words as he was told by a man that he should be in Brussels negotiating Brexit.
Mr Johnson was accosted by the man who yelled: ‘You should be in Brussels negotiating. You are not. You are in Morley in Leeds.’
The Prime Minister attempted to explain he had been negotiating, but the disgruntled man continued: ‘You’re playing games.’
Mr Johnson retorted: ‘What I think people want us to do, is to leave the European Union on October 31.’
Footage then emerged of another member of the public shaking hands with Mr Johnson and telling him: ‘Please leave my town.’
Meanwhile, the PM faced growing pressure to reverse his decision to expel 21 Tory Remainer rebels after they backed a bid to block a No Deal Brexit.
The decision to strip the whip from the rebels has prompted widespread anger on the Tory backbenches with many MPs blaming Dominic Cummings, the PM’s top adviser, for the hardline approach to discipline.
Mr Cummings was yesterday accused of overseeing a ‘Stalinist-style purge’ of the Conservative Party as numerous figures called for the rebels to be allowed to return to the Tories.
This morning, Sir Michael, the former defence secretary, said there should be a way back for the rebels.
He told the BBC: ‘I would hope there would be some kind of appeal mechanism that they can find now so they get the chance to state their case.’
Sir Michael, who has said he will stand down at the next election, added: ‘I also worry that it sends the wrong message to Remainers – particularly in my party.
‘I think, by definition, some five million Conservatives must have voted Remain and we have got to be very careful not to drive them into the hands of Remainer parties like the Liberal Democrats in England or the Scottish nationalists in Scotland.’
Conservative former minister Claire Perry today became the latest Tory MP to announce her intention to quit at the next election.
Sir John Major last night took aim at Downing Street’s approach as he accused Mr Johnson of presiding over an unelected ‘faction of a faction’.
The former Tory prime minister accused Mr Johnson of running a ‘Government by bluster and threat in a climate of aggressive bullying’ and turning the Conservatives into a ‘mean-minded sect’.