Another mid-term election spawned by deep Brexit divisions is on the cards after the Boris Johnson government suffered a defeat in the House of Commons on Tuesday night on the issue of leaving the EU on October 31 without an agreement.
Johnson confirmed soon after suffering his first parliamentary defeat as prime minister by 301 to 328 that the government would table a motion under the Fixed Term of Parliament Act 2011 to trigger the election, which requires a two-thirds majority in the House.
Opponents of a no-deal Brexit comprising opposition parties as well as rebel Conservative MPs moved the motion on the first day of parliament session on Tuesday, winning it in the evening. The win allows them to table a bill on Wednesday prohibiting a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson said after the defeat: “The leader of the opposition has been begging for an election for two years. I don’t want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to compel another pointless delay to Brexit then that would be the only way to resolve this”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded: “There is no majority for a no-deal Brexit in the country. He wants to table a motion for a general election. Fine. Get the bill passed first in order to take no-deal off the table”.
Leading cabinet members in the last Theresa May government were among 21 Conservative MPs who voted against the Johnson government, including former chancellor Philip Hammond, former justice secretary David Gauke and veteran party MPs such as Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve.
The defeat came in the context of a defining week for Brexit preceded by the controversial prorogation of parliament, which has been challenged in courts in Scotland and England. The election is likely to be held on October 14.
The Johnson government earlier in the day lost its slender majority of one when Conservative MP Philip Lee defected to the Liberal Democrats. The forthcoming election will be the third in five years since the general election in 2015 and the mid-term version in 2017.
Recent local elections and by-elections indicate that parties with a clear position on Brexit have benefited the most.
The Liberal Democrats with an openly pro-EU, anti-Brexit stance and the newly-formed Brexit party with an overt anti-EU, pro-Brexit position have grown at the expense of Conservative and Labour.