(Bloomberg) — Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on course to get the general election he wants on his preferred date of December 12 after winning crucial votes in the House of Commons.
With Brexit on hold until the end of January, and Johnson unable to get his divorce deal through Parliament, the U.K.’s political leaders now believe a snap poll is the only way to resolve the crisis paralyzing the country. The vote is set to become a proxy referendum on European Union membership.
- Johnson won a vote in the House of Commons for a bill to set the date of the next election as Dec. 12 by 438 to 20.
- MPs voted 315 to 295 to reject a Labour bid for the election to be held on Dec. 9
- Election Bill now passes to the House of Lords
- Ten Tories who were kicked out of the party for opposing Johnson’s Brexit strategy have been re-admitted
MPs Approve Dec. 12 General Election (8:25 p.m.)
MPs agreed to hold a general election on Dec. 12, voting in favor of Boris Johnson’s bill by a margin of 438 to 20.
The prime minister earlier saw off an attempt by opposition parties to change the date to Dec. 9 (see 8 p.m.).
The bill now heads to the House of Lords, where it can still be amended. The unelected upper chamber typically yields to the view of the lower one – meaning that an early general election is now a near certainty.
MPs Reject Election Date of Dec. 9 (8 p.m.)
MPs rejected a bid by the opposition Labour Party to change the proposed election date to Dec. 9 from Dec. 12. The amendment to change the date was defeated by 315 votes to 295.
Opposition politicians had argued an earlier date would make it more likely that students would be able to vote, as many universities break up for the holiday in the week of Dec. 9.
But the government won the day with its argument that the earlier date would make it hard to pass vital legislation relating to Northern Ireland before Parliament dissolves (See 6 p.m.)
Johnson Flexible on Date, Official Says (6:40 p.m.)
The wrangling over the date of the election is continuing, but Boris Johnson is not tied to his preferred date of Dec. 12 at all costs.
MPs in the House of Commons are now discussing Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to move the election date to Dec. 9.
While it’s difficult to wrap up Parliamentary business in time for a Dec. 9 election, the premier would probably not abandon his plan if that date were forced on him by Parliament, a Tory official said.
This all points to an election being agreed to by Tuesday night.
Ten Expelled Tories Back in the Fold (6:30 p.m.)
Johnson met in private with 10 of the 21 MPs Conservative MPs who were thrown of the party for opposing his Brexit strategy and they have been re-admitted, a party spokesman said.
They include two former Cabinet ministers: Greg Clark and Caroline Nokes. Some of the other notable names are Alistair Burt, Nicholas Soames — the grandson of Winston Churchill, Stephen Hammond and Margot James. The door has been left open for others to be brought back as well, the spokesman said.
The development is good news for Johnson as it points to some of the former rebels planning to vote with the government and may help to heal rifts in the party.
What does the EU make of all this? (6:15 p.m.)
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said a prospective snap election in the U.K. won’t have a material effect on the concrete negotiations involving Brexit.
“The problems to be solved remain the same — and the solutions would also be the same,” Barnier told Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview.
“We spent two years negotiating a 600-page treaty with Theresa May. With Boris Johnson we negotiated for a comparatively short amount of time,” he said. May was “courageous and tenacious,” and Johnson is “also tenacious and a strong character,” he said.
Govt. Rejects Changing Election Day (6 p.m.)
Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden said if MPs opt for a Dec. 9 election, as proposed in an amendment, there’s a “real danger” nurses, teachers and police officers in Northern Ireland won’t get paid after the end of the month as there won’t be time to approve a budget for the province.
A Dec. 12 election “gives Parliament enough time to progress essential business, and specifically the Northern Ireland budget Bill,” Dowden said.
Asked twice whether it would be possible for the House of Commons to sit on Friday in order to ensure the Northern Ireland legislation goes through, he replied that the bill needed to be “properly” considered.
Early Election Bill Proceeds to Next Stage (5:45 p.m.)
The House of Commons just gave approval in principle to the government’s bill calling for an early general election. There was no need for a vote, and the bill passed its so-called second reading on the nod. It now goes to the committee stage, when it can be amended.
Parliament Won’t Vote on Expanding Electorate (5:20 p.m.)
Deputy House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle rejected proposals to lower the voting age to 16 and to give EU nationals living in the U.K. a vote in the upcoming general election. The government said it would pull its election bill rather than accept either measure.
The only amendment Hoyle selected was Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to change the date of the election from Dec. 12 to Dec. 9. The Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party have indicated they would support such a move. The government said it wouldn’t rule out a vote on Dec. 9, but said it would be a rush.
Farewell and Good Luck from Tusk (4:30 p.m.)
EU Council President Donald Tusk warned that the Brexit extension to Jan. 31 ‘may be the last one,’ after announcing the bloc has formally adopted its decision to allow a delay.
“Please make the best use of this time,” Tusk said in a tweet. “I will keep my fingers crossed for you.”
Ex-Tories Add Backing to Votes at 16 (3:40 p.m.)
At least four former Conservative MPs have signed a proposed amendment that would expand the electoral roll to include 16 and 17 year olds.
Anna Soubry, who quit the party in February, and Guto Bebb, Justine Greening and Dominic Grieve, who were expelled in September for rebelling against Johnson’s Brexit plans, have all put their name to an amendment by Labour backbencher Stephen Doughty calling for the change.
But the issue may not come to a vote. The list of amendments chosen for debate will be announced sometime after 5:45 p.m.
Johnson to Pull Bill If Franchise Amendments Pass (3:20 p.m.)
Boris Johnson would abandon his attempt to hold a general election next month if amendments are passed to allow EU nationals and 16-year-olds to vote, his spokesman told reporters in Westminster.
Expanding the franchise would be a bad idea and would force a six-month delay until there can be a national vote, the spokesman said.
But he said the prime minister may press on if MPs vote to hold the election on Dec. 9 instead of Dec. 12. A vote on Dec. 9 would be a rush but the government isn’t ruling it out, he said.
It’s unclear which amendments the speaker will select, so these issues may not come to a vote.
Lib Dems and SNP Back Votes at 16 (3:10 p.m.)
The Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party will join Labour in backing any amendment to allow 16-year-olds and EU nationals with settled status in the U.K. to vote in the general election, according to a Lib Dem official.
The Liberal Democrat stance is a change from Monday, when party officials briefed they were likely to abstain on any such amendment. That’s because, while they want 16-year olds to have the vote, they think there isn’t time to change the electoral register in time for a December election.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, reminded lawmakers that EU citizens are already on the electoral roll for local elections so it would be easy to give them votes in a general election.
Corbyn Backs Expansion of Electorate (2:50 p.m.)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he will back amendments to allow 16-year-olds and EU nationals with settled status in the U.K. to vote in the general election.
If the measures pass, it could torpedo the legislation, and therefore the early national poll.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, earlier told reporters that the Electoral Commission recommends changes to the electoral register shouldn’t be made less than 6 months before a vote, and that the government has no plans to expand the franchise.
Johnson Makes Case For Early Vote (2:35 p.m.)
Boris Johnson made his case for an early election in the House of Commons, saying the current crop of members wouldn’t vote through his Withdrawal Agreement Bill and accusing opposition MPs of not wanting to deliver Brexit.
“There is only one way to get Brexit done in the face of this unrelenting parliamentary obstructionism,” he told the chamber. “That is, Mr speaker, to refresh this Parliament and to give people a choice.”
MPs Vote to Allow Amendments to Election Bill (2:20 p.m.)
MPs backed the amendment by Labour backbencher Stella Creasy (see 2:10 p.m.) enabling them to add changes to Boris Johnson’s bill to force through a general election.
The government had sought to by bypass normal Parliamentary rules and limit the opportunity for rank-and-file lawmakers to change the proposed law.
It now opens up the bill to possible amendments, including from those who want to change the date of the election, or to add 16 and 17-year-olds and EU nationals to the electorate.
MPs Voting to Allow Election Bill Amendments (2:10 p.m.)
MPs are voting on an amendment to the government’s schedule for proceeding with the general election bill in the House of Commons.
In essence, the amendment, proposed by Labour backbencher Stella Creasy, would allow MPs to amend the legislation calling for an early general election. The government is trying to bypass normal Parliamentary rules to speed its passage through parliament.
Creasy said her amendment aims merely to put the concept of “fair play” back in the Commons. “What the government was trying to do, in simple terms, was rig today’s debate,” she told lawmakers. “Letting this program motion go through without the full list of rules, is like letting Lance Armstrong keep all his medals.”
Election Bill Presented to Parliament (1:45 p.m.)
The bill calling for an early general election has been presented in Parliament – what’s called its first reading. That’s just a formality. MPs have 6 hours to get it through all of its stages in the House of Commons.
That includes a vote on second reading – expected by about 6 p.m. and then debate on possible amendments at what’s called the committee stage of the bill. If it stays to schedule, the final vote should be no later than 7:45 p.m.
OBR Forecasts Still Due on Nov. 7 (12:45 p.m.)
The government’s fiscal watchdog said it will still publish its economic forecasts on Nov. 7, even though Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid’s Budget the day before has been canceled.
The forecasts, which were due to be presented in response to the Budget, will include updated assessments of the impact of the Brexit deal Boris Johnson agreed with the EU on Oct. 17. Javid has ruled out publishing any government impact assessments of the deal.
In a letter to the Treasury, Robert Chote, Chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, said it is required by law to publish at least two forecasts per year and will go ahead with its plans.
Chote said in his letter that the new deal is unlikely to have made a “significant quantitative difference” compared to the last forecast in March, which was based on Theresa May’s deal and assumed a transition period to Dec. 2020.
Johnson Will Consider Other Election Dates (12:30 p.m.)
Boris Johnson is open to considering other dates for a general election, but doesn’t consider a poll on Dec. 9 as logistically possible, his spokesman James Slack told reporters in Westminster.
That means Dec. 10 or 11 could emerge as the date for a pre-Christmas election, rather than the Dec. 12 vote proposed by the prime minister.
Slack also said that Johnson wouldn’t countenance the lowering of the voting age to 16, or the inclusion of EU nationals in the vote, both of which have been proposed by opposition parties. Even if he supported the changes, there would be practical issues with either happening in time for an election next month, Slack said.
Mixed Reaction to Election From Labour MPs (11:50 a.m.)
Not all Labour MPs seem happy about Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to back a general election.
Darren Jones, who represents a constituency in Bristol, tweeted a painting of the Charge of the Light Brigade – one of Britain’s best-known military disasters. Another, Ben Bradshaw said an election shouldn’t be a tool to resolve Brexit. “A general election is about everything about governing the country,” he told the BBC.
But others threw their support behind the plan. Laura Pidcock tweeted “BRING IT ON,” while Clive Lewis tweeted an abbreviated version of the same message: “bring it.”
‘It’s Time,’ Corbyn Says (11:30 a.m.)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that his party will back a general election, confirming earlier statements from his office (see 10:50 a.m.). “It’s time,” he said.
Pound Erases Loss With Election Likely (11:10 a.m.)
The pound reversed an earlier decline as traders judged a vote in Parliament on an early election vote was likely to pass with the Labour Party’s backing (see 10:50 a.m.). The currency gained as much as 0.1% to $1.2873 before paring gains.
Market participants judge a snap poll could bring back a Conservative majority and end the Brexit deadlock, according to Nomura International Plc analyst Jordan Rochester.
Corbyn Backs December Election (10:50 a.m.)
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn indicated his party will back a general election in December, meaning Johnson will be able to go to the polls by the end of the year.
Corbyn told his team: “For the next three months, our condition of taking no deal off the table has now been met,” according to a statement. “We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.”
The parties are haggling over the date of the election, with a day between Dec. 9 and Dec. 12 currently on the table. Amendments to Johnson’s bill are being written now.
Trust Is Key as SNP Deliberates Over Election (10:45 a.m.)
Scottish National Party MPs are scrutinizing the contents of the government’s election bill ahead of a debate later today, according to a spokesman.
The party wants an election, but its lawmakers don’t trust Boris Johnson to keep to his word, he said.
Government Offers Dec. 11 to Win Lib Dem Support (10 a.m.)
The negotiations have begun in Westminster ahead of the vote on Boris Johnson’s plan for a Dec. 12 general election. With the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party seeking a Dec. 9 poll, a U.K. official said the government has offered Dec. 11 as a compromise.
A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said the party is looking at the offer.
The government needs some opposition votes to reach a simple majority for its election bill to pass, but it also wants to avoid amendments being attached to the legislation.
Students’ Vacation Key to Election Date Battle (9 a.m.)
The biggest sticking point in Boris Johnson’s bid for a Dec. 12 general election is the date itself. Two smaller opposition parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, whose support could be key to the government’s chances, want an earlier poll on Dec. 9 to ensure students are still at their universities to cast their ballots.
Liberal Democrat MP Chuka Umunna told BBC radio on Tuesday his party would not accept Dec. 12. But Conservative minister Brandon Lewis said Dec. 12 is the “right date” and accused the opposition parties of seeking to stop Brexit altogether. The government has said it needs time before Parliament breaks up for an election to secure key Northern Ireland legislation.
Johnson lacks a majority in Parliament, so will need at least some opposition votes to secure an early election. But the Liberal Democrats and SNP, both staunchly pro-EU and anti-Brexit, regard students as a key constituency.
Meanwhile, even though the main opposition Labour Party abstained in Monday’s vote on a snap poll, their position appeared to be softening on Tuesday. Labour’s trade spokesman, Barry Gardiner, hinted his party could back a Dec. 9 election, telling BBC radio: “The first thing is to make sure that students are not disenfranchised by the date of the election.”
Hammond: Election Will Usher in Tory Hardliners (8:30 a.m.)
Former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who is still suspended from the party after defying Boris Johnson over Brexit, warned an election would usher in “hardliner” pro-Leave MPs to the Tory benches.
“I fear that the real narrative here is that the Vote Leave activists, the cohort that has seized control in Downing Street — and to some extent in the headquarters of the Conservative Party — wants this general election to change the shape of the Conservative Party in Parliament,” Hammond told BBC radio.
Hammond also disputed the government’s narrative that he and other expelled Tories, and MPs in general, are the ones blocking Brexit. The House of Commons voted in favor of the initial passage of Johnson’s Brexit bill before the government pulled the legislation over its failure to win backing for an accelerated timetable, Hammond said.
Rees-Mogg: No Plan to Bring Brexit Bill Back (Earlier)
In his business statement to Parliament late Tuesday, Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government wants to get the early election bill through all stages of the House of Commons on Tuesday.
He also said the government had no plan to bring back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill — the legislation that puts the Brexit deal into U.K. law — before Parliament breaks up for the election. That’s a key demand of the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party, who opened up the legislative route to an early election when they expressed willingness to vote for a snap poll, subject to Brexit not being concluded beforehand.
According to Tuesday’s House of Commons order paper, debate on the election bill is due to begin at 12:30 p.m. — subject to ministerial statements and urgent questions — and can continue “until any hour.”
Boris Johnson Won’t Give Up on Trying to Force a U.K. ElectionBrexit Bulletin: Fourth Time Lucky?Two Foreign Exchange Traders, Three Votes and a Brexit Meltdown