Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at Downing Street on October 28, 2019 in London, England.
Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Lawmakers in the U.K. have rejected the government’s request to hold a general election on Dec. 12.
Under the rules, two-thirds of Parliament, or 434 MPs, needed to approve the motion for it to pass, but it got only 299 as opposition lawmakers declined the opportunity to take on Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the ballot box.
Johnson said the government will try again with a new route for a Dec. 12 election in a vote on Tuesday, saying it was time to “get Brexit done.”
Johnson’s defeat means he is now likely to seek a different route to an election – by passing a law with a simple majority that bypasses the 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act.
To do so, he would need the support of opposition parties such as the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats, which have been pushing for a Dec. 9 election, along with a guarantee that Johnson will not resume debate on the divorce deal he has agreed with Brussels.
“Later on this evening, the government will give notice of presentation for a short bill for an election on the 12th of December so we can finally get Brexit done,” Johnson told Parliament.
The second-largest party in Parliament, Labour, and its leader Jeremy Corbyn had previously said they will not back an election unless the possibility of a no-deal Brexit is removed.
Going to the polls is viewed by the Conservative-led government as the best way to secure a strong-enough hold over Parliament that can, in turn, smooth the passage of its Brexit plan. Since 2017, the Conservative Party has needed the votes of Northern Ireland’s DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) party to hold a slender House of Commons majority.
A consensus of polls suggests that the Conservatives would likely improve its position if a general election was held in the current political atmosphere.
Naturally, opposition lawmakers are therefore split as to whether an election is a good idea. Some claim the U.K. government will use a fresh mandate to force through a no deal, while others questioned the granting of a pre-Christmas election that Johnson looks well-placed to win.
Attention now turns to a separate plan which could see an election agreed for Dec. 9. This would need a change to current law, allowing only a simple majority of MPs to secure a national vote.
Parliament’s fourth-largest party, the Liberal Democrats, is reportedly considering working with the Conservative Party on the plan and some within the Scottish National Party (SNP) — Parliament’s third-largest party — would also vote for it.
Early Monday, the European Union granted an extension to the U.K.’s membership of the trading bloc. Britain and Northern Ireland had been aiming to leave on Oct. 31 but with Parliament unable to agree on the terms of the departure, Johnson was legally forced to ask for another extension.
The EU has now given the U.K. until Jan. 31 to leave the bloc with the possibility of an earlier exit if MPs can ratify the divorce deal. European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed the “flextension” on Twitter.
European leaders, via Tusk, will now seek the U.K.’s written agreement to the decision, before formalizing the extended membership.
Reuters contributed to this reporting.