British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a crucial defeat on a motion giving Wednesday’s parliamentary business to MPs who are expected to block a no-deal Brexit with legislation.
The government received 301 votes but failed to beat the motion after 328 MPs, including more than 20 Tory MPs, voted for it.
The government’s defeat signals a new stage in the rising conflict between the executive and the legislature as MPs regain control over parliament.
The 21 rebel Tory MPs who voted with the opposition included former Chancellor Phillip Hammond, former Attorney general Dominic Grieve, former Justice Secretary David Gauke and Father of the House of Commons Kenneth Clarke.
A total of 286 Tory MPs voted in favor of the government and against the motion as well as the 10 MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party. Two Brexit supporting Labour MPs, Kate Hoey and John Mann, supported the government as well as three independent MPs.
Immediately after the results were announced, the prime minister rejected the outcome of the bill and will instead table a motion for a general election, arguing that if MPs vote for the Benn Bill Wednesday, the British public will have to choose the U.K.’s next Brexit negotiators.
“Let there be no doubt about the consequences of this vote tonight. It means that parliament is on the brink of wrecking any deal we might be able to strike in Brussels,” Johnson said on Parliament TV. “Because tomorrow’s bill would hand control of the negotiations to the EU. And that would mean more dither, more delay, more confusion. And it would mean that the EU themselves would be able decide how long to keep this country in the EU.”
Moreover, he warned that if opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn were elected, he would do as the EU says and work in their interests and not the U.K.’s. Corbyn and other opposition parties have said they would not support a general election motion until the Benn Bill has been passed.
“And since I refuse to go along with that plan we are going to have to make a choice. I don’t want an election. The public don’t want an election. But if the House votes for this bill tomorrow, the public will have to choose who goes to Brussels on October 17 to sort this out and take this country forward” the prime minister added.
Corbyn said Tuesday’s vote reflected the nation’s mood in that there is no consent for a no-deal Brexit and that the house of commons is against the U.K. leaving the EU without an agreement. He further called on Johnson to put his Brexit policy, if he has one, to a public vote before the people.
“I welcome tonight’s vote. We live in a parliamentary democracy, we do not have a presidency but a prime minister. There is no consent in this house to leave the European Union without a deal. There is no majority for no deal in the country” Corbyn said in a statement after Johnson.
“As I have said before: if the prime minister has confidence in his Brexit policy - when he has one he can put forward - he should put it before the people in a public vote.
And so, he wants to table a motion for a general election, fine get the bill through first in order to take no-deal off the table” he added.
The 21 rebel Tory MPs who voted against the government will have the whip withdrawn which means they will no longer be Conservative Party MPs.
As such, Johnson no longer commands a majority in parliament as Conservative seats have been reduced by 43. The opposition, in effect, has more seats in parliament than the government.
MPs on Wednesday will use parliamentary time to pass a bill that will block a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 if Johnson’s government fails to reach a deal with the EU by that deadline.
Johnson threatened his own MPs on Tuesday to vote against the motion and said he would deselect them for a snap election, which he is likely to call.
The U.K. is set to leave the bloc at the end of October after two extensions granted by the EU.
If the bill is passed Wednesday, Johnson would be forced to ask for a third extension from the EU.