(Another) Brexit crunch day as Johnson's election bid hangs in balance

Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson poses for a photograph with workers at the Wight Shipyard Company at Venture Quay during a visit to the Isle of Wight, Britain
Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson poses for a photograph with workers at the Wight Shipyard Company at Venture Quay during a visit to the Isle of Wight, Britain Copyright Dominic Lipinski/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
By Orlando Crowcroft
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The Liberal Democrats and the SNP say they could support early elections in return for no deal guarantees.


The European Union is likely to agree a 3-month flexible Brexit delay on Monday, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces another crunch vote in parliament in his push for fresh elections on December 12.

A source close to French President Emmanuel Macron said there would "most likely be an agreement on Monday morning between the 27 (EU member states) on extension until January 31".

Macron last week prevented the bloc from reaching a decision on the delay.

The source added Macron spoke to Johnson during the weekend. "The prospect of elections has strengthened significantly over the weekend," the source said, stressing the third postponement of Brexit would come with conditions. They include a refusal to renegotiate Johnson's divorce agreement and giving a green light to the 27 other EU countries to meet without Britain to discuss the bloc's future.

Johnson is pushing for the election after he was forced by his opponents to request an extension he had pledged he would never ask for.

He needs a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons in order to override the Fixed Term Parliament Act, passed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010.

The bill was designed to ensure stability by taking away the power of the incumbent government to call elections on a date of their choice, setting the parliamentary term to five years.

Johnson, whose majority was wiped out after 21 Conservative MPs were expelled from the party for defying the government over Brexit, needs Britain's opposition to back his call for elections.

Britain’s Labour party has ruled out supporting Johnson until the European Union agrees to extend the UK’s Brexit deadline until January 31, 2020.

Although the EU has supported an extension in principle, it has not said how long it will be.

The Guardian newspaper in the UK reports it has seen a leaked draft of the extension agreement, in which the EU is set to sign off on the extension to 31 January 2020. The report adds there is an option for the UK to leave the EU earlier if a deal is ratified.

On Sunday, Labour’s Home Affairs spokeswoman Dianne Abbott said that if Johnson committed to not leading the UK out of the EU without a deal, “a lot of Labour MPs would be satisfied.”

Another option

Meanwhile, two other opposition parties in the UK - the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP) have offered Johnson an easier route to fresh elections.

In a letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk, Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat leader, said that if the EU grants an extension to January 31, 2020, they and the SNP will propose an amendment to the Fixed Term Parliament Act to hold an election on December 9.

As an amendment, the bill would only need a simple majority to pass, with the SNP and Liberal Democrats 51 MPs getting Johnson over the line without the need for Labour Party support.

It is unclear whether Johnson will be willing publicly commit to avoiding a no deal exit, however, as the UK prime minister has repeatedly stated that to do so undermines Britain’s negotiating strategy.

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