Boris Johnson’s government stepped up pressure on lawmakers on Sunday to back the prime minister’s bid to hold an early election and break the Brexit impasse, saying Britain was being held “hostage” by parliament.
But with the main opposition Labour Party waiting for the European Union to grant a Brexit delay and two other parties launching their own bid for an even earlier election, the government’s bid so far looks set to fail.
Britain was due to leave the EU on Thursday, but despite the government arguing this is still the legal default date, few expect Johnson to meet his “do or die” promise to deliver Brexit on October 31 after the bloc agreed to another delay.
More than three years since Britain voted to leave the EU, the divided country and its parliament are still debating over how, when and even whether Brexit, Britain’s biggest policy shift for more than 40 years, should happen.
All Britain’s political parties agree an election is needed to break the standoff over Brexit, but do not see eye-to-eye on its timing. For many lawmakers, an attempt by Johnson to set the terms of a new election raises concerns that he might renege.
But a source at Johnson’s Downing Street office said the prime minister would do all he can to force an election to “get Brexit done”, including considering options offered by other opposition parties.
“Parliament cannot hold the country hostage any longer,” Johnson said late on Saturday. “Millions of businesses and people cannot plan their futures, this paralysis is causing real damage and the country must move on in 2020.” His culture minister, Nicky Morgan, doubled down on the message on Sunday, warning lawmakers that Thursday was still “the default leaving date”. “So that should focus minds,” she told Sky News.