Johnson’s first test as UK PM leaves him crushed

Boris Johnson has talked boldly, trying to silence critics to his plan for a No Deal Brexit – but has spectacularly failed his first test as British Prime Minister and is now a puppet of his fellow MPs.

Humiliated, he now faces being an impotent Prime Minister who will be told what to do.

Johnson had warned his fellow Conservative MPs that if they crossed the floor and voted against him he would boot them out of Parliament. His threat fell on deaf ears. As he made his first address in as PM, Conservative MP Philip Lee crossed the floor and sat with the Liberal Democrats to wreck Johnson’s one-vote majority.

Then a total of 21 Conservative MPs openly defied Johnson and voted with the Opposition to seize control of the House of Commons agenda on Wednesday afternoon (local time). They will push through a bill which will force Johnson to request an extension in Brexit talks with the European Commission to 31 January 2020 unless he can secure a deal with Brussels or parliamentary approval for no deal by 19 October.

Johnson’s No-Deal plan is being torn to shreds. He repeatedly told the public that his No-Deal withdrawal from the EU on 31 October was essential to obtain concessions from the EU.

Johnson then said he would call a snap general election, but even that presents massive hurdles.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he will not agree to a new election until legislation preventing a no-deal exit is in place.

“He isn’t winning friends in Europe. He’s losing friends at home. His is a government with no mandate, no morals and, as of today, no majority,” Corbyn said.

Scottish National Party leader at Westminster Iain Blackford and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson also said they would prioritise blocking a damaging departure.

It is more than three years since the UK voted to leave the European Union it joined in 1972. However, its lawmakers have been spectacularly unable to become the first country to leave the EU and it is still unclear how it will happen. The UK agreed on a deal to leave the EU in November 2018 but MPs rejected it three times.

Theresa May, who was replaced as Prime Minister by Boris Johnson, triggered the formal process to leave on 29 March this year. The MPs delayed that leaving date twice. Johnson on becoming PM said the EU had to make changes to the agreement to leave, which the EU has refused to do to date, and Johnson said that the UK would leave the EU on 31 October with or without an EU deal.

Former Conservative Party government minister Ken Clarke summed up Johnson and the state of the Conservative party.

“It’s been taken over by a rather knockabout sort of character, who’s got this bizarre crash-it-through philosophy … a cabinet which is the most right-wing cabinet any Conservative party has ever produced.

“They’re not in control of events. The prime minister comes and talks total rubbish to us and is planning to hold a quick election and get out, blaming Parliament and Europe for the shambles.

“I have to decide whether to vote Conservative if Boris Johnson is still the leader. That’s my next problem. I am a conservative, of course I am … but this leader, I don’t recognise this. It’s the Brexit party, rebadged.”

Boris Johnson issued this statement after he was defeated in the House of Commons:

“Let there be no doubt about the consequences of this vote tonight. It means that parliament is on the brink of wrecking any deal we might be able to strike in Brussels. Because tomorrow’s bill would hand control of the negotiations to the EU.

“And that would mean more dither, more delay, more confusion. And it would mean that the EU themselves would be able decide how long to keep this country in the EU. And since I refuse to go along with that plan we are going to have to make a choice. I don’t want an election. The public don’t want an election. But if the House votes for this bill tomorrow, the public will have to choose who goes to Brussels on October 17 to sort this out and take this country forward,” he said.

“Everyone will know if the Rt Hon Gentleman is the prime minister, he will go to Brussels, he will beg for an extension, you will accept whatever Brussels demands and we’ll have years more arguments over Brexit. And by contrast, everyone will know that if I am prime minister, I will go to Brussels, I will go for a deal and get a deal but if they won’t do a deal we will leave anyway on 31 October,” he continued.

“The people of this country will have to choose. The leader of the Opposition has been begging for an election for two years. I don’t want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop the negotiations and to compel another pointless delay of Brexit, potentially for years, then that will be the only way to resolve this. I can confirm that tonight we will are tabling a motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.”

Boris Johnson appears to be a dead politician barely walking. He has been in power since 23 July.

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