UK PM Johnson’s Brexit plans in tatters after stinging defeats

By , K24 Digital
On Thu, 5 Sep, 2019 09:25 | 3 mins read
Boris Johnson
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson. PHOTO | FILE
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson. PHOTO | FILE

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's hardline Brexit strategy stood in tatters on Thursday after a humiliating week left him without a working majority but unable to call an election.

His supporters ended a night-long filibuster in the upper House of Lords when the government gave up trying to block a measure designed to stop a no-deal Brexit by forcing Johnson to seek a delay if he fails to reach an agreement with Brussels.

The government has said a bill to stop a no-deal Brexit will complete its passage through the Lords on Friday.

The proposed legislation was passed by MPs on Wednesday, inflicting a defeat on Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

There were claims pro-Brexit peers could deliberately hold up the bill so it could not get royal assent before Parliament is prorogued next week.

But the Conservative chief whip in the Lords announced a breakthrough in the early hours after talks with Labour.

The peers sat until 01:30 BST, holding a series of amendment votes that appeared to support predictions a marathon filibuster session - designed to derail the bill - was under way.

The opposition said they should now be able to pass the bill -- which he has branded a "surrender document" -- before he suspends parliament for over a month next week.

"Govt commits to allowing (the draft legislation) to complete all stages in course of Thurs & Friday -- with the bill then going back to the Commons for any further consideration on Monday," the main opposition Labour Party tweeted in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The lower House of Commons fast-tracked the legislation on Wednesday and then blocked Johnson's call for an early election that he wants held on October 15.

Labour said it will only back the snap poll once it makes sure Johnson is unable to follow through on his threat to take Britain out of the EU with no deal by the October 31 Brexit deadline .

Parliament has now dealt Johnson a rapid series of stinging defeats that have left him a weakened leader just six weeks into his term.

The splintered country still stands no closer to finding out how or when -- or even if -- it will leave the European Union more than three years after the original Brexit vote.

Johnson will also face another legal challenge on Thursday against his decision to order the suspension of parliament from next week until October 14 -- a move that his critics have called a "coup" and a "constitutional outrage".

It set the stage for the current furore in Westminster that Johnson tried to stamp out by expelling 21 of its own MPs for voting with the opposition.

But then Lord Ashton of Hyde announced that all stages of the bill would be completed in the Lords by 17:00 BST on Friday.

He added that the Commons chief whip had also given a commitment that MPs will consider any Lords amendments on Monday and that the government intends that the "bill will be ready" to be presented for royal assent.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn previously said his party required the bill to gain royal assent before it would consider backing Mr Johnson's call for a general election.

They included former finance minister Philip Hammond and grandee Ken Clarke -- the longest-serving MP -- along with Winston Churchill's grandson Nicholas Soames.

'Boris knows how to win'

Johnson himself will be on a campaign footing on Thursday as he launches a national effort to recruit 20,000 police officers in Yorkshire in northern England.

The prime minister will also on Thursday host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Vice President Mike Pence.

He received an endorsement on Wednesday from US President Donald Trump -- a key international supporter.

"Boris knows how to win. Don't worry about him. He's going to be ok," Trump told reporters.

Johnson has said he wants to strike a deal with EU leaders to allow for an orderly withdrawal from the bloc at the end of next month after 46 years of membership.

But the EU says it has not received any credible proposals from Britain and a senior EU source on Wednesday poured cold water on the idea that a deal could be struck at a summit in Brussels on October 17-18.

Baroness Smith, Labour leader in the House of Lords, confirmed the opposition supported the move in the Lords overnight, and said she hoped there would be "no further frustrations" of the bill as it goes through all its stages on Friday.

"It has been quite a night. It has been a long debate - and I am grateful to the noble Lords who have stayed the course - it shows the importance of the work we do and the issue we are debating," she said.

"I am grateful that we are now able to confirm that we will be able to complete all stages of the bill in a time-honoured way by 5pm Friday."

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