Boris Johnson offers MPs ‘last chance’ vote on election

Boris Johnson at a polling station Credit: PA

Boris Johnson is to ramp up the pressure on MPs to back a snap general election, warning them that if they do not, they face five weeks of watching the Brexit negotiations from the sidelines.

The Prime Minister could prorogue Parliament as early as Monday in a move that would suspend all proceedings until October 14.

But Mr Johnson will present MPs with a way out of an enforced holiday by giving them another vote on holding a general election before a final decision to prorogue is taken.

However, the vote is widely expected to fail for a second time, after MPs voted it down on Wednesday.

The Government failed to secure the support of two-thirds of MPs, with the Commons voting 298 to 55, and a large number of politicians abstaining.

The result fell 136 votes short of the number needed under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act for a vote to be considered.

Downing Street has until Thursday to suspend Parliament.

Opposition MPs have said they will not back another general election until no deal is taken off the table, but following a press conference between Irish PM Leo Varadkar and Mr Johnson, the chances of achieving a deal before the deadline appear slim.

Also on Monday, an Opposition law, dubbed the Benn Bill after Labour MP Hilary Benn, that would extend the Brexit deadline until January 2020 is expected to receive Royal Assent before prorogation kicks-in but MPs would be thrown out of Parliament almost immediately afterwards and face a nervous wait to see whether Mr Johnson will obey the legislation.

The Conservative Party leader is in Ireland for a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, but his counterpart poured cold water on suggestions of a breakthrough on the stalemate over a solution to the Irish backstop, the safety net agreed by the European Union and the UK to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is set to meet Boris Johnson to discuss Brexit Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

On Sunday, Mr Johnson bunkered down in Chevening, the Foreign Secretary’s country residence, with his closest aides, understood to have included chief strategist Dominic Cummings, where he is understood to have wargamed how the crucial week ahead could pan out.

With the PM being warned by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland about the “importance of the Rule of Law” following hints that Mr Johnson could be tempted to break the law to deliver Brexit by Halloween, Downing Street looked to double down on pushing for an election.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme that any blame for the failure to leave the EU by October 31 could be laid at the feet of Labour and the Liberal Democrats and others opposing no-deal.

“What I’m going to do is redouble our efforts to get a deal but… if we can’t do that, it is very clear that the blockage is Jeremy Corbyn, the Liberal Democrats and others who are not willing to respect the referendum,” he said.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it would be the fault of Labour and the Lib Dems if no Brexit deal is reached. Credit: Sky News/Sophy Ridge On Sunday

He called the Benn Bill “lousy”, before adding: “The key thing with an extension is it requires agreement on both sides and it is very difficult for the legislation to micro-manage in detail how that conversation will go.”

France has suggested it could veto lengthening the talks, with French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, telling reporters: “We are not going to do this (extend the deadline) every three months.”

The Daily Telegraph, formerly one of Mr Johnson’s employers, quoted a Downing Street source who said Monday would be the final opportunity for MPs to stop no-deal.

To call a general election early using the Fixed-Term Parliament Act (FTPA), two-thirds of MPs (434) would have to agree.

The No10 source reportedly said: “(Monday) is the last chance for Corbyn to be prime minister and negotiate his delay at Brussels (at the European Council summit) on October 17-18.

“If he opposes the people having their say in an election on October 15, then MPs should realise they may not be able to stop no-deal.

The hardball act has been taken with MPs after Taoiseach Mr Varadkar said on Sunday he did not expect a breakthrough when the pair meet for the first time since Mr Johnson was elevated to PM.

Mr Varadkar said: “I don’t think the meeting tomorrow is a high stakes meeting, as I don’t anticipate a big breakthrough tomorrow.

“If we come to an agreement that agreement will happen in October at the EU summit.”

Amber Rudd’s assessment that more effort is being put into no-deal preparations than the divorce negotiations with Brussels will be tested on Monday with a host of ministers and senior civil servants facing questioning on the UK’s readiness to leave without an agreement in place.

Amber Rudd sensationally quit the Cabinet and the Tory Party on Saturday Credit: Jeff Overs/BBC

Ms Rudd made the claim after sensationally quitting the Cabinet and the Tory Party on Saturday.

She has been replaced as Work and Pensions Secretary by Therese Coffey, a loyalist who was promoted from her role as environment minister.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has essentially disbanded the Europe unit which had led negotiations with Brussels on a Brexit deal, The Times newspaper has reported.

The group working under chief Brexit negotiator David Frost consists of just four staffers, the paper says, whereas it did have more than 50 civil servants at the height of negotiations over the original withdrawal agreement, with additions support also provided by various Government departments.

MPs will also debate on Monday a petition backed by 1.7 million people demanding Parliament must not be prorogued unless Article 50 is extended.