Boris Johnson (Image: PTI File)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday suffered repeated parliamentary blows over Brexit as MPs backed a bill to block a no-deal Brexit, which led him to table a motion for a snap general election on October 15. The final blow came as he lost that motion to push through an election, which he said he preferred than to delay Brexit any further beyond the October 31 deadline.
"The obvious conclusion is that he does not think he will win," said Johnson, in reference to Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose party abstained from the final votes, resulting in a 298 versus 56 outcome, which fell way short of the required majority.
Opposition MPs and Tory rebels ensured the bill to prevent Britain leaving the EU without a deal in place passed its first stage of reading by 329 votes to 300 and then its final stage by 327 and 299 votes. It meant Johnson would be forced to ask the EU for extension to the October 31 Brexit deadline if a so-called divorce pact is not in place by mid-October.
Johnson had already warned that he would rather push for an immediate vote on an early general election for October 15 if the "surrender bill" cleared all the Commons stages.
"I don't want an election, the public don't want an election but this House has left no other option than letting the public decide who they want as Prime Minister," said Johnson, as he tabled the bill for an "early general election".
That motion then went into debate and was voted on, dealing Johnson his final defeat of the day.
The Brexit vote that he lost earlier was on the second reading - the parliamentary stage which examines the main principles of the bill - and was the first chance for MPs to show whether they supported the bill.
The MPs then began debating amendments to the bill - put forward by lawmakers but chosen by the Speaker - ahead of a third and final vote.
After his third bruising parliamentary defeat on Brexit since Tuesday, Johnson proceeded to call for an election.
His motion needed the backing of two-thirds of the UK's 650 MPs under the UK's Fixed Term Act to be passed. It looked uncertain as the Opposition Labour Party had indicated that it would not vote in favour of Johnson's election timetable.
"The offer of an election is like an offer of an apple to Snow White by the wicked queen with the poison of a no-deal," said Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Johnson argues that his threat to take Britain out of the EU with or without a divorce deal on October 31 will eventually force the economic bloc's 27 other leaders to agree better terms.
His critics counter that Johnson is playing with fire because of the economic damage such a breakup could cause after almost half a century of close ties with Britain's closest neighbours.
The European Commission also on Wednesday said the risk of a no-deal Brexit had increased, warning that it saw no alternative to the current withdrawal deal.
It would seem that Johnson's six-week-old government, which came to power in July at the end of a bruising leadership battle on a "do or die" Brexit pledge, now stands in complete disarray.
It lost its working majority in parliament on Tuesday after one of its MPs switched to the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats.
It then expelled 21 MPs from the Conservative party for voting against the government a few hours later. The Conservative rebels had supported an Opposition motion temporarily allowing Parliament to decide what legislation is put up for a vote- a power traditionally held by the government.
Johnson now enters what promises to be one of the more consequential days of the entire three-year Brexit saga.