Boris Johnson could soon be forced to resign as prime minister and make way for Jeremy Corbyn

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Boris Johnson.Getty

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is quickly running out of options after opposition parties agreed to veto his request for an October election.
  • The agreement means that Johnson is likely to soon face a choice between breaking his promise to take Britain out of the European Union by the end of October or stepping down as prime minister.
  • Johnson’s resignation would leave opposition parties the opportunity to appoint a caretaker prime minister who would be charged with delaying Brexit before calling a general election.

Boris Johnson could soon be forced to resign as prime minister. Here’s why;

Johnson became prime minister in July on a promise of taking the UK out of the European Union on October 31 with or without a deal.

But last week that plan collapsed after opposition members of Parliament passed a law designed to force Johnson to seek a three-month delay to Brexit.

Johnson immediately tried to overturn this by forcing an early general election before Britain’s planned exit date. However, opposition parties will on Monday vote to veto Johnson’s request when he makes it for a second time.

This means that Johnson’s plan has all but run out of road and he is likely to soon face a simple but terrible choice between two options — neither of which is good.

1. Break his promise to deliver Brexit on October 31

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Opposition members of Parliament last week passed a law which when it receives royal assent on Monday will force whoever is prime minister on October 16 to request a three-month delay to Brexit.

Without an early election, Johnson has no hope of overturning this law — meaning that if nothing else changes he would be legally obliged to break his promise to take Britain out of the EU, “do or die,” on October 31. Doing so would risk a collapse in his support among Brexit voters and could even lead to a leadership challenge within his party.

Because of this risk, Johnson has repeatedly insisted that there are “no circumstances” under which he would seek a delay to Brexit, saying on Thursday that he would sooner “be dead in a ditch” than comply with the law.

Some Downing Street sources have suggested in recent days that the prime minister could simply break the law. However, the Attorney General and other senior ministers have insisted the prime minister has now assured them he will not do this. This means he really has only one other option.

2. Resign as prime minister

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If opposition parties refuse to give Johnson an October election and if he decides he cannot break his promise to deliver Brexit, then Johnson very quickly runs out of other options.

Last week, one senior minister told The Times that under those circumstances Johnson would opt instead to resign as prime minister. His official representative on Friday repeatedly refused to rule this out when asked by journalists at a regular briefing in Parliament.

As even the Conservative commentator Paul Goodman points out on Monday: “If there is an escape from this trap other than resignation, we would love to know what it is.”

Under this scenario, Johnson would step down and make way for opposition parties to form a government instead. Because of the defection of Conservative MP Phillip Lee and Johnson’s decision to oust 21 Conservative members of Parliament last week, the prime minister no longer has a working majority in the House of Commons.

If Johnson did resign, the queen would have little choice but to look to opposition parties to try to form a government. Johnson would then become the leader of the opposition, and a new prime minister — drawn from the opposition — would take over.

A caretaker prime minister takes over

Jeremy Corbyn. Getty

As the leader of the largest opposition party, Jeremy Corbyn would then be best placed to lead this caretaker government.

Other opposition parties are reluctant to make him prime minister even temporarily. But they could, in theory, agree to do so if he committed to calling an election as soon as he secures an extension to Brexit, as he has already offered to do.

Alternatively, Corbyn could agree to allow another opposition politician to fill the role.

This would be an utterly extraordinary series of events and in ordinary times would be dismissed as mere fantasy.

However, these are not ordinary times, and such an outcome could work for both Johnson and Corbyn.

For Corbyn, this scenario would allow him to prevent a no-deal Brexit and potentially become prime minister, before going into a general election in which he would hope to win.

For Johnson, it would allow him to avoid breaking his promise while blaming Labour for the Brexit delay. He would also then be in a good position to win the next election.

So could this be where the UK ends up in the next few weeks? We will find out very soon.

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BREXIT LATEST: Boris Johnson humiliated again as brother Jo resigns from Cabinet

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Pro and anti-Brexit campaigners outside the Cabinet Office in London on Thursday. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Boris Johnson’s brother Jo was “torn between family loyalty and the national interest” in the latest blow for the PM//BY:

Mikey SmithPolitical Correspondent

Boris Johnson suffered further humiliation today as his brother Jo resigned from Cabinet and announced he would not stand at the next election.

Jo Johnson was “torn between family loyalty and the national interest” in the latest blow for the Prime Minister.

It comes as Mr Johnson prepares to address the nation today with another attack on Jeremy Corbyn following Commons defeats which have severely weakened his grip on power.

The Prime Minister will now brand his chief political foe “cowardly” after failing to block a bill aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Johnson suffered two more embarrassing defeats in the Commons yesterday – the first forcing him to secure a Brexit extension and the second denying him an October 15 election.

Mr Corbyn – who has said he would back an election once the Brexit delay bill becomes law – and other opposition leaders are now set to plot their next move.

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Brexit: MPs back bid to block Parliament suspension

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MPs have backed a bid to stop a new prime minister suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit//BBC NEWS

A majority of 41 approved an amendment that blocks suspension between 9 October and 18 December unless a Northern Ireland executive is formed.

Four cabinet ministers, including Philip Hammond, abstained and 17 Tory MPs rebelled, including minister Margot James, who has resigned.

Leadership contender Boris Johnson has not ruled out suspending Parliament.

His rival Jeremy Hunt has ruled out this move.

Ms James told the BBC attempting to suspend Parliament was “too extreme” adding: “I thought the time was right today to join people who are trying to do something about it.”

The four cabinet ministers who abstained are International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Justice Secretary David Gauke, as well as Chancellor Mr Hammond.

Mr Clark defended his decision to abstain arguing: “I couldn’t support the idea that we would allow the doors of Parliament to be locked against MPs at this crucially important time – that would be a constitutional outrage.”

Mr Hammond tweeted: “It should not be controversial to believe that Parliament be allowed to sit, and have a say, during a key period in our country’s history.”

Image copyrightUK PARLIAMENTImage captionMargot James told the BBC “I felt it was time to put my marker down”

A Downing Street spokesman said the prime minister was “obviously disappointed that a number of ministers failed to vote in this afternoon’s division”.

“No doubt her successor will take this into account when forming their government,” the spokesman said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the vote was “an important victory to prevent the Tories from suspending Parliament to force through a disastrous no deal”.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the Commons had now made it harder for a new prime minister to suspend Parliament.

If the 31 October deadline is reached without Parliament backing an agreement between the UK government and the EU, the UK is scheduled to leave the EU without a deal.

MPs have consistently voted against a no-deal Brexit, but the prime minister could try to get around that by suspending Parliament – proroguing – in the run-up to the deadline, denying them an opportunity to block it.

The amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill was put forward by MPs including former minister Alistair Burt and Brexit committee chairman and Labour MP Hilary Benn.

It would mean that if Parliament is prorogued when the government publishes reports on the situation in Northern Ireland, MPs must be recalled to debate them.

Mr Burt told the BBC that Parliament had said “very clearly please don’t bypass us… Parliament must be sitting in the run up to 31 October”.

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