Johnson’s bid to trigger early election fails after hundreds of MPs abstain
Boris Johnson's snap general election plan was roundly rejected on Wednesday night after his bid to keep a no-deal Brexit on the table suffered a major blow.
The Prime Minister had called for a poll to be held on October 15 after legislation designed to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU on October 31 cleared the Commons.
But Labour and other opposition MPs refused to back the bid - which needed a two-thirds majority in the Commons - while the risk of a no-deal remained.
The UK Government failed to secure the support of two-thirds of MPs, with the Commons voting 298 to 55, 136 short of the number needed.
In a series of setbacks, MPs approved a backbench Bill earlier in the evening to delay Brexit in order to prevent a no-deal withdrawal from the EU on October 31.
It cleared the Commons when it passed its third reading by 327 votes to 299, majority 28, and should now progress to the Lords.
Following a moment of confusion, an amendment seeking to give MPs a vote on Theresa May's final Brexit deal was also passed - potentially paving the way for it to be put before the Commons for the first time.
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock's amendment was approved after tellers for those voting against the amendment were not put forward during voting.
The developments in Westminster will have a knock-on impact on Gibraltar, where every nuance was being closely scrutinised.
“These are game changing developments,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told the Chronicle.
“Once again, whilst every possibility remains open, the chances of a no-deal exit are receding.”
“We are ready for any eventuality but we are hopeful - again - that the worst possible permutations may not come to pass.”
"We are watching every detail hawkishly and we are in contact with Parliamentary colleagues at Westminster, across the partisan and Brexit dividing lines, to ensure they all keep Gibraltar's interests in mind at every stage.”
“This is difficult work to which we are committed and we continue to watch out for Gibraltar at every dramatic turn.”
Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the GSD, welcomed the latest news from Westminster, which he said could open the way for a different outcome to a hard Brexit, which all Gibraltar’s political parties are agreed would be bad for this community.
“The passage of the Bill that would force the Prime Minister to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline if he gets no new agreement from the EU by the 19th of October is good news for Gibraltar,” he said.
“It envisages a possible delay both to Brexit and to the prospect of a no deal exit.”
“It allows us to keep hoping for a different outcome. Clearly we must continue to plan for the worst and all outcomes.”
“We will watch developments closely over the next few days as the Parliamentary manoeuvres will continue but at least for now these are good developments for Gibraltar.”
Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon, who leads the Together Gibraltar party, also welcomed the developments in the Commons but expressed frustration at the wider Brexit uncertainty that has clogged UK politics for months.
“While we are encouraged by the House of Commons' resolve to avoid a no deal Brexit, the way individual protagonists in the House of Commons are using the increasing uncertainty to further their own agendas brings further despair,” she told the Chronicle.
“The Boris Johnson Government has pushed for a general election in a high risk push to run down the Brexit clock, and still might be able to do so via different mechanisms despite not obtaining the two thirds majority required.”
“The situation in the UK continues to remind us of the need for honest, conviction-driven politics rather than self serving career politicians seeking to out manoeuvre each other through cheap legal mechanisms.”
ELECTION STILL LOOMS
On Wednesday in the Commons, Mr Johnson said the rebel bill had scuppered his Brexit negotiations with the EU and was designed to overturn the 2016 referendum on leaving the bloc.
"It's therefore a bill without precedent in the history of this house, seeking as it does to force the prime minister with a pre-drafted letter to surrender in international negotiations," Mr Johnson told parliament. "I refuse to do this."
"This house has left no other option than letting the public decide who they want as prime minister.”
Beyond the frantic political manoeuvring, the UK could still at some point leave the EU with a deal to smooth the transition, leave without a deal, or cancel Brexit.
A prospective election would offer three likely alternatives: a Brexiteer government under Mr Johnson; a Labour government led by veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, who has promised a fresh referendum with staying in the EU as an option; and a 'hung' parliament with a coalition or minority government.
"If I am still prime minister after Tuesday the 15th of October, then we will leave on the 31st of October with, I hope, a much better deal," Mr Johnson told parliament.
Mr Johnson said he hoped to get a new deal at an EU summit scheduled for October 17-18, but his opponents doubt he can achieve a better deal than the one his predecessor Theresa May negotiated but failed to get through parliament.
Opponents of Brexit say an acrimonious 'no-deal' departure would be a disaster for what was one of the West’s most stable democracies, shattering supply chains, damaging global growth, and weakening Britain’s standing in the world.
Many supporters of Brexit, though, say those fears are overblown and that, while there may be short-term disruption, it would provide a clean break from the struggling bloc and allow the United Kingdom to thrive.
In a sign of how far Brexit has distorted British politics, Mr Johnson's Conservatives said on Tuesday they were expelling 21 rebels - including the grandson of Britain's World War Two leader Winston Churchill and two former finance ministers - from the party for seeking to block any 'no-deal' exit.
Yet despite Mr Johnson's efforts to up the ante, the EU has refused to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement reached with Mrs May.
In Brussels, British and EU diplomats made clear there was no immediate prospect of substantive negotiations on a divorce deal as Britain's new negotiator arrived for talks.
And Ireland said Mr Johnson had not yet presented any solutions to address the backstop - the toughest part of the Brexit impasse, concerning checks on the land border between the Irish Republic and the British province of Northern Ireland.
PA Media and Reuters contributed reporting to this article.