Boris Johnson fails in pushing through snap election after Brexit delay bill passes


Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a statement to MPs in the House of Commons, London, on the G7 Summit in Biarritz.

House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed in his bid to call a snap general election on Wednesday, after lawmakers wrested control of Parliament this week and voted through a bill that aims to stop a no-deal Brexit.

The election had been proposed for October 15, but the prime minister needed a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons to pass his motion. The opposition parties of Labour, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats all said they would not back Johnson’s plan even before the vote began. The result saw 298 votes for the motion and 56 against — 136 short of what was needed.

The U.K. leader could still try other options to force an election. The government could try to bypass legislation requiring a two-thirds majority to approve a snap election. It has even been mooted that Johnson could call a vote of no confidence in his own government and then call on his MPs (Members of Parliament) to abstain from the vote although this is seen as extremely unlikely.

The new legislation to stop a no-deal Brexit was passed by a vote of 327-299 earlier Wednesday and could now essentially force the prime minister to ask the EU for another delay for the U.K.’s departure, which has a current deadline of October 31. The EU would have to agree to a delay and the bill would also have to be approved by the largely pro-EU House of Lords later this week.

Pro-Brexit Johnson, an integral part of the 2016 Leave campaign, has argued that keeping a no-deal departure on the negotiating table strengthened the U.K.’s position in any last-ditch attempts to get the EU to amend the Brexit deal on offer.

Johnson has kicked out 21 “rebel” MPs (Members of Parliament) from his ruling Conservative Party after they voted against his government on Tuesday. He has lost his slim majority in the House of Commons and has seen one of his lawmakers defect to an opposition party in what has been a turbulent, and potentially pivotal, week for Brexit.

In a fiery debate between Johnson and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier on Wednesday, the British prime minister challenged his rival to agree to an October 15 date for an election.

“Can I invite the leader of the opposition to confirm, when he stands up shortly, that if that surrender bill is passed, he will allow the people of this country to have their view on what he is proposing to hand over in their name with an election on October the 15th?” Johnson told the lower chamber of Parliament.

Corbyn and other opposition parties were resolute in saying they wanted to complete the blocking of a no-deal Brexit before agreeing to any election.

There has been two general elections in the U.K. since 2015, alongside the referendum in 2016 when Britain voted 52% to 48% to leave the EU.

—CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this article.

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