Opponents of ‘no deal’ Brexit defeat Johnson in the Commons
- CM says developments in Westminster are of "potentially huge" significance to Gibraltar, adding "all
aspects of Brexit are in play once again".
A cross-party alliance defeated Prime Minister Boris Johnson in parliament on Tuesday in a bid to prevent him taking Britain out of the EU without a divorce agreement, in a move that the government warned would thrust Britain towards an October snap election.
MPs voted by 328 to 301 for a motion put forward by opposition parties and rebel lawmakers in Mr Johnson's party - who had been warned they would be kicked out of the Conservative Party if they defied the government.
More than three years after the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, the defeat leaves the course of Brexit unresolved, with possible outcomes still ranging from a turbulent 'no-deal' exit to abandoning the whole endeavour.
Tuesday's victory is the first hurdle for MPs who, having succeeded in taking control of parliamentary business, will on Wednesday seek to pass a law forcing Mr Johnson to ask the EU to delay Brexit until January 31 unless he has a deal approved by parliament beforehand on the terms and manner of the exit.
The Conservative rebels who now face expulsion from the party included Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Britain's World War Two leader Winston Churchill, and two former finance ministers - Philip Hammond and Kenneth Clarke.
In a historic showdown between prime minister and parliament, Mr Johnson's opponents said they wanted to prevent him playing Russian roulette with a country once touted as a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability.
They argue that nothing can justify the risk of a 'no-deal' Brexit that would cut economic ties overnight with Britain's biggest export market and inevitably bring huge economic disruption.
In Gibraltar, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo was closely following the latest developments in Westminster, which he said were of huge significance to this community.
"Although this is just a vote on procedure, its implications are potentially huge for Gibraltar,” he told the Chronicle.
“We must now watch carefully what happens next in London. History is being made in Westminster and we are talking directly to all the relevant actors.”
“Gibraltar was a feature of questions in the Commons on a key day and that was important.
“Now, all aspects of Brexit are in play once again. The flux continues.”
“And we continue to ensure we have protected Gibraltar for every possible eventuality and we continue to talk to all relevant players in achieving that.”
Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the GSD, said the vote on the Bill in the Commons on Wednesday represented an opportunity to move toward another extension of the Brexit date.
He added that an extension that delayed Brexit and allowed for a change of direction, including the possibility of a second referendum, was good news for Gibraltar.
“Clearly the UK Government will seek to derail that by forcing a UK election,” he said.
“From our perspective any circumstances that delay Brexit or raise the prospect of the possibility of a change of policy on Brexit or a second referendum are good developments and we welcome these latest events.”
“Clearly and for the time being our own Parliament should stay in session until the dust settles on all this in case in the run up to Brexit it is necessary for any urgent legislation to be passed.”
And reflecting the recent intense exchanges on the issue of parliamentary reform and enlargement in Gibraltar, Mr Azopardi added too that the vote in Westminster highlighted another important issue.
“The vote to take control of the Parliamentary agenda shows how important it is to have a functioning Parliament that can act as a check on the unbridled power of a Government,” he said.
“This is not the case in Gibraltar where there is a permanent ministerial majority.”
Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon, the Leader of Together Gibraltar, said the developments in Westminster showed the Commons remained as divided as ever, and there was no change to the damaging uncertainty of Brexit.
“Last night’s vote once again shows the House is deeply divided and lacking in leadership and direction,” she told the Chronicle.
“For all the bluster and rhetoric espoused by Boris Johnson in his first days as Prime Minister, the House of Commons has demonstrated that he is no more in control than Theresa May was.”
“Further, trying to shut down Parliament to try to force the option of no deal has been a democratic travesty, knowing full well that there is no support for that either in Parliament or across the UK.”
“The change of leadership has effectively been a change for the worst, as the uncertainty remains."
In Gibraltar, as always, we continue to await a semblance of clarity from the UK while at the same time, we are duty bound to continue to prepare for all eventualities.
Mr Johnson cast the challenge as an attempt to force Britain to surrender to the EU just as he hopes to secure concessions on the terms of the divorce, helped by the threat to walk out without one. Ahead of the vote, he said would never accept another "pointless delay" toBrexit beyond October 31.
Mr Johnson's government will now seek to hold a vote on Wednesday to approve an early election, most likely to be held on October 14. An election would pit the avowed Brexiteer against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist.
In the eye of the Brexit maelstrom, though, it was unclear whether opposition parties would support such a move - which requires the support of two-thirds of the 650-seat House of Commons.
Mr Corbyn has long demanded an election as the best way out of the crisis, but many of those seeking to prevent a 'no-deal' Brexit say Mr Johnson could time the poll to ensure that parliament cannot prevent an October 31 departure - with or without a deal.
The Labour Party's chief enforcer said the party would not let this happen, a source said. Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair on Monday urged Corbyn to avoid the "elephant trap" of an election.
The 2016 Brexit referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the European Union, and has fuelled soul-searching about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, empire and modern Britishness.
It has also triggered civil war inside both of Britain's main political parties as dozens of MPs put what they see as the United Kingdom's fate above that of party loyalty.
Just as Johnson began speaking, he lost his working majority in parliament when one of his own Conservative lawmakers, Phillip Lee, crossed the floor of the House of Commons to join the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.
Reuters contributed reporting to this artice