MPs holding country hostage if they do not agree to election – Prime Minister

MPs must approve an election or else Parliament be holding the country “hostage” with Brexit paralysis during a three-month extension, says the Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that MPs can have more time to debate his Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) as long as they vote for a general election on December 12.

He is set to ask them to vote for an election on Monday – the third time he has requested they let him go to the country.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said his party will wait for the European Union’s decision over how long an Article 50 extension should be before deciding whether to whip MPs in favour of an election.

Mr Johnson’s letter to Brussels leaders last week requested a delay, as imposed by the Benn Act, until January 2020.

Mr Corbyn wants the option of a no-deal Brexit “taken off the table” before agreeing to the PM’s polling date.

But Conservative Party officials said Mr Corbyn had personally called for a new election as many as 35 times since the 2017 national vote produced a hung parliament – even though the Government’s policy was that no-deal was better than a bad deal.

The PM said any Brexit delay granted by the EU would be “wasted” by the House of Commons and that, should Labour and other opposition parties reject his request for a trip to the polls, they would be guilty of holding the country “hostage”.

Under the stipulations of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, Mr Johnson requires two thirds of MPs to sign off an election request, meaning he requires opposition support for a snap pre-Christmas poll.

“Parliament cannot hold the country hostage any longer,” he said.

“Millions of businesses and people cannot plan their futures, this paralysis is causing real damage and the country must move on in 2020.”

Mr Johnson said the current Parliament had “run its course”, adding: “For more than three years Parliament has consistently told the country what it doesn’t want – but it has never been willing or able to say what it does want.

Brexit
The Tories said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had asked for an election 35 times since the 2017 vote (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“This has left our country unable to move on and do what is needed to get Brexit done.

“My worry is this Parliament will just waste the next three months like it’s wasted the last three years.”

MPs last week voted to pass the Tory leader’s Brexit Bill at second reading, agreeing to the principle of his exit deal with Brussels.

But they defeated his three-day high-speed timetable which was designed to force it through Parliament before the current October 31 deadline.

Mr Johnson’s desire to have the Bill ratified hastily flew in the face of advice from his own parliamentary expert, Nikki da Costa, who said the WAB would need to be debated for at least four weeks.

The former London mayor said the timetable defeat drew him “reluctantly” to the conclusion that “if Parliament cannot agree a way forward then is it time for a new Parliament”.

The Tories have since stepped into full-scale campaign mode with flyers being sent out to MPs and candidates, and street teams briefed to expect a winter election.

Polls
The Prime Minister said the current Parliament had ‘run its course’ (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“They say they want more time to discuss my new deal, they can have more time – indeed they can have all the parliamentary time they like, night and day between now and when Parliament rises for the election – to scrutinise this deal and get it agreed one final time,” said the PM.

“But if they are to convince me and the country that they are really serious in wanting to do this, then they must set a fixed term to this debate – a real hard deadline that everyone can understand and everyone can believe in.

“So they must also agree to an election on December 12. If they refuse this timetable – if they refuse to go the extra mile to complete Brexit – then I will have no choice but to conclude that they are not really sincere in their desire to get Brexit done.”

Under plans for a new push for a vote, Tory-funded social media adverts will direct people to a website where they can email their local MP asking them to “back an election to finally end three years of Brexit delay”, according to the party.

MPs have already dismissed an election request twice, calling for the option of a no-deal Brexit to be removed first.

Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) said the party saw its biggest online fundraising month on record in September as members get behind Mr Johnson’s desire for a new Tory majority.

Tory chairman James Cleverly said: “If this Parliament won’t get Brexit done, it needs to let the people choose another one that will.”

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