The Prime Minister threatens to exclude his party’s rebels who want to force him to postpone the Brexit date for lack of an agreement at the end of October. At this stage, he says he does not want early elections, even if the risk of such an outcome is increasing.
This week was expected to be a last-chance confrontation between a Boris Johnson threatening to leave the EU with or without an agreement on 31 October, and British MPs seeking by all means to oppose a no deal before their work is suspended next week. But as Parliament resumes this Tuesday after the summer break, it is actually a three-strip pool game that the new Prime Minister is about to play.
His plan is simple: if he loses this week’s game and has to resolve to have the deputies pass a law requiring him to ask, in the absence of an agreement with Brussels on 19 October, for a further postponement of the Brexit date to 31 January, Boris Johnson called a meeting of his government on Monday to consider early legislative proposals. In this way, he hopes to breathe new life into himself and consolidate his parliamentary majority, which now holds only one vote (out of 650 deputies) and thanks to the support of the ten elected members of the DUP, the cumbersome Northern Irish Unionist party. If he won these early elections, he could also have a law passed that would cancel the law requiring him to delay the Brexit date. It could thus leave the EU with or without an agreement by 31 October, as it promised. On Monday, however, he said he did not want early elections.
Threats of exclusion
“The government’s strategy is to lose this week and then call a general election,” said former Justice Minister David Gauke, who is one of the Tories rebels trying to defeat the no deal. “I think that’s what he wants to do,” observes Tim Bale, a political scientist at Queen Mary University, for whom such a scenario is currently “a very big risk. Unless this manoeuvre is intended to discourage slingers from pushing their lines for fear of losing their seats.
Such a sequence has become all the more conceivable as Boris Johnson decided on Sunday to simply exclude from the Conservative parliamentary group those MEPs who would vote in favour of a new postponement of the Brexit. The latter will no longer be able to present themselves under the “tory” label during the next legislative elections. Some 20 Conservative MPs could face such a sanction. This purge would mechanically cause Boris Johnson to lose his parliamentary majority. And would force him to call for legislative elections before the hour (some say as early as October 14).
To organise them, it would need the support of two thirds of the deputies, which would require a green light from the leader of the Labour opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. However, it will be all the more difficult for the latter to resist the temptation as he only dreams of that to get into power. As a sign that the risk is real, former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair had to make a media trip to call on him “not to fall into this elephant trap”.
“We want a general election,” Jeremy Corbyn said in a speech on Monday. …] In this election, Labour will give the people a chance to regain control and have the last word. The idea is to promise voters a new referendum on Brexit, offering them, among other things, the possibility of remaining in the EU. It remains to be seen whether such a promise will be sufficient to win him in the event of parliamentary elections.