Boris Johnson today taunted ‘chicken’ Jeremy Corbyn for trying to block a snap election – after the Lib Dems and SNP humiliated the Labour leader by declaring they will back a snap poll.
The Prime Minister said he did not want to put the public to the ‘inconvenience’ of a pre-Christmas election.
But he insisted he no longer believed that Parliament could ‘deliver Brexit’ and must go to the country to break the deadlock.
‘I think the leader of the Opposition has now run out of excuses,’ Mr Johnson said.
The combative comments came as Mr Johnson kicked off Commons debate ahead of a crunch vote on whether to hold an election – hours after the EU killed off his ‘do or die’ Brexit vow by granting an extension until January 31.
The motion tonight needs to be approved by two-thirds of the House, making Labour backing necessary.
But the shadow cabinet agreed this afternoon that the party will abstain, amid threats of a massive revolt by half of backbench MPs who fear being put to the sword if they go to the country.
However, despite the opposition Mr Corbyn faces being embarrassingly outflanked as the SNP and Lib Dems are set to support a new piece of legislation tomorrow triggering a snap poll.
What is happening in Parliament today?
Boris Johnson, the SNP and the Lib Dems have today formed an unlikely alliance to render Jeremy Corbyn powerless as Labour starts another week hopelessly divided over whether they want a general election or not.
In the face of a massive backbench revolt, Mr Corbyn has vowed to block the PM’s latest bid to force a snap poll tonight.
That motion is being brought under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, meaning two-thirds of the Commons must vote in favour for it to pass.
But the veteran left-winger has been outflanked after the SNP and Lib Dems broke ranks.
They have offered to back a one-line Bill that would sidestep the FTPA. In return the PM would give up hope of passing the Brexit Bill before an election.
If the government loses tonight, it will be put before Parliament tomorrow, and crucially will only require a simple majority in both Houses. That threshold is well within reach with SNP and Lib Dem MPs and peers on board.
However, the split has already caused fury among Labour Remainers who accuse the smaller parties of ‘playing for naked political’ advantage.
There has been some chatter at Westminster that the government could offer Mr Corbyn a way out by trying to table a new timetable for the Brexit Bill tomorrow – although it is far from clear that will work.
A No10 source warned that its next step will be to join forces with the SNP and Lib Dems to pass legislation for an election.
That only requires a simple majority, making it easier to pass. But the PM will have implicitly shelved hopes of getting his deal through Parliament before the nation votes.
‘Tonight is Labour’s last chance to have an election with Brexit done – they can vote tonight for the 12th and get Brexit done before Parliament is dissolved,’ the No10 source said.
‘If not, we will introduce a Bill almost identical to the SNP Bill tomorrow and we will have a pre-Christmas election anyway.
‘This Parliament has repeatedly failed to respect its promise to respect the referendum.
‘Millions of families and businesses can’t plan because of constant delays. We need a new Parliament by Christmas so we can Get Brexit Done in January and the country can move on.’
The manoeuvring came after Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, announced that Brussels had granted Britain a so-called ‘flex-tension’ until January 31.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has indicated she will order her MPs to support an election as soon as the departure date has been formalised. Her party’s priority has been to ensure that a Brexit deal cannot be passed before either a referendum or an election is held.
‘We will keep fighting for a People’s Vote, but unless Labour wholeheartedly back it then a General Election is the only way we can use this extension to #StopBrexit,’ she tweeted today.
Furious Labour Remainers accused the Lib Dems of ‘playing for naked political advantage’ and handing more advantage to Mr Johnson by ‘blowing up’ the so-called Remainer alliance.
One Tory MP told MailOnline that the smaller parties endorsing a snap election would leave Labour ‘well and truly stuck’.
Opening the snap election debate tonight, Boris Johnson said he did not want to put the public to the ‘inconvenience’ of a pre-Christmas election
Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street this morning, previously promised to deliver Brexit ‘do or die’ and with or without a deal on October 31
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured today) is still ordering his MPs to abstain on the PM’s plan for a December 12 general election
The European Council president Donald Tusk confirmed that the UK would get another three months to break its Brexit deadlock by either passing a deal or holding a general election
Under the terms of the extension granted by the EU, if MPs back Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal in the coming weeks then the extension can be terminated early and the UK will split from Brussels.
Mr Johnson’s Plan A was for MPs to back holding an election on December 12.
If MPs back the snap poll then Parliament would be given until November 6 to agree to the PM’s deal – but the election would then go ahead regardless.
The chances of the PM securing an election on his preferred date will hinge on whether Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party support it.
What are the terms of the Brexit delay offered by the EU to the UK?
Donald Tusk announced this morning that the EU had agreed to delay Brexit by up to three months to January 31, 2020.
However, the extension will have flexibility built into it.
That will mean that if Boris Johnson is able to get his Brexit deal agreed by parliament and then ratified by the European Parliament the extension will be terminated early.
If he is able to get his Withdrawal Agreement finalised in November the UK is likely to leave the EU on December 1.
If the Brexit deal is finalised in December then the UK will likely leave on January 1 and if it is not sorted until January then the UK will leave the day after the current extension on February 1.
Should Mr Johnson fail to get his deal through then the extension will provide enough time for a general election to be held.
The EU is also expected to insist as part of the extension package that the UK appoint a new European Commissioner for the duration of the extension.
Mr Johnson will need the backing of two thirds of the Commons 434 MPs – to trigger the election but Mr Corbyn is expected to abstain on the motion.
Mr Corbyn previously said he would vote for an election once a No Deal Brexit had been ruled for the next few months, but the party has suggested in recent days that the government must rule out a disorderly departure at any point.
Mr Corbyn now faces being outflanked by his political opponents after the Liberal Democrats and the SNP put forward their own plan, which has now been endorsed by Downing Street.
That would see an election held on December 9.
The government is believed to be haggling with the Lib Dems and SNP over pushing the date to December 10 or 11.
But crucially for the Lib Dems, the Brexit Bill will be shelved until after the national ballot. The legislation to implement Mr Johnson’s deal received its second reading from MPs, but was then ‘paused’ after the House refused to sign off a breakneck 72-hour timetable to get it on the statute book.
A senior government source was jubilant about the shift, saying it ‘feels like we’ll get there one way or another’.
Independent Group leader Anna Soubry raged that the Lib Dems had ‘turned their backs’ on a second referendum.
‘They have, in my view, turned their back on the People’s Vote, wrongly claiming there is no majority for it in Parliament. I am sorry to say that old style, selfish, tribal party politics is at play,’ she said.
One Remain-backing Labour MP told MailOnline: ‘This is about naked political advantage… they are just blowing things up.’
The MP said they and anti-Brexit colleagues would still vote against the FTPA motion, but added gloomily: ‘I’ve got to go – I’ve got a small majority and an election to prepare for.’
The decision by the EU to grant the UK a three month delay represents a humiliating moment for Mr Johnson who said he would rather be ‘dead in a ditch’ than see Brexit postponed again.
Announcing the extension, Mr Tusk said in a tweet: ‘The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK’s request for a #Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020.
‘The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure.’
Under the terms of the extension offered by the EU, the UK will be able to quit the bloc before January 31 if Parliament is able to agree to the PM’s deal.
The extension is expected to include a termination clause so that if MPs back the deal in November the UK will leave the EU on December 1 and if they back the deal in December then the UK will leave the EU on January 1.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said today: ‘I’m very happy that a decision has been taken.’
The EU had been split on how long thew Brexit delay should be with French President Emmanuel Macron initially favouring a short extension.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, pictured on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, has hatched a plan with the SNP to outflank Mr Corbyn if he blocks an election
Mr Johnson’s Brexit mastermind Dominic Cummings (right) arrives in Downing Street this morning before the EU granted the Brexit extension
Senior ministers including Sajid Javid and leading Brexiteers like Steve Baker (right) were in Downing Street this morning
Ex-ministers Michael Fallon and James Brokenshire were also among MPs called in to Downing Street
However, Mr Macron is believed to have changed his mind after a phone call with Mr Johnson yesterday.
The EU has long insisted that it would grant a lengthier delay if it was to make time for the UK to either hold an election or a second referendum.
Mr Johnson appears to have persuaded Mr Macron that a general election will dramatically alter the Brexit arithmetic in the House of Commons, finally providing a way through the current impasse.
An EU source said the extension would last ‘only as long as necessary to allow for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement and, in any event, no longer than January 31 2020’.
Britain would be able to leave the EU on the first day of the month following the ratification of the WAB by both the European and UK parliaments.
But the source added: ‘The United Kingdom will remain a member state until the new withdrawal date, with full rights and obligations, including the obligation to suggest a candidate for appointment as a member of the Commission.
‘This extension excludes any re-opening of the Withdrawal Agreement.’
The text will be submitted to the UK for agreement, before a written procedure is launched to adopt the decision – with the process likely to be concluded tomorrow or Wednesday.
One potential sticking point in the EU’s extension offer is that the UK will likely be required to nominate and send a UK Commissioner after October 31.
Mr Johnson previously said Britain would stop sending one after October 31 – the day he said Brexit would happen.
The EU is also adamant that no major changes can be made to the Prime Minister’s deal.
It says: ‘The European Council firmly states that it excludes any reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement in the future and recalls that any unilateral commitment, statement or other act by the United Kingdom should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement.’
Mr Tusk has been in intensive discussions with EU leaders over the weekend.
Jeremy Corbyn, pictured today leaving his London home, is under growing pressure to back a pre-Christmas election
Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street this morning, will ask MPs to vote today for an election to be held on December 12 but without Labour’s support his plan is likely to be scuppered
A majority of Labour MPs are believed to be opposed to a pre-Brexit election.
One set out their opposition in colourful terms to the Politics Home website as they said: ‘I won’t be voting for a general election come hell or high water. They can go f*** themselves. Brexit must be sorted.
‘As for winning, you’ve got to be pretty dim to ask for the chequered flag when you’re stuck at the back of the grid.’
Many recent opinion polls have Labour trailing the Tories by double digits with senior party figures fearing the worse if there is an election in the near future.
But while many in Labour are downbeat on their chances at an election, the pro-Remain Lib Dems and SNP are champing at the bit to go to the country early.
Both believe a pre-Brexit election is in their favour, hence why they have joined forces on the plan to force a poll on December 9.
That is the absolute earliest an election could be held because of rules which dictate there must be 25 working days before polling day.
The December 9 date would be three days before the PM’s proposed date and, crucially, when more students are still at university to cast their votes in Remain-supporting target swing seats.
The draft law, currently earmarked to be tabled tomorrow, would require a simple majority of 320 MPs to support it in order to dissolve Parliament – 114 fewer than under the FTPA ‘super majority’ rules.
Ms Swinson said the proposal would tie Mr Johnson’s hands over the election date and would not give him the ‘wriggle room’ that his own plan would have.
Many opposition MPs fear that if they voted for an election Mr Johnson could then change the date to force a No Deal Brexit – something Downing Street has long dismissed as nonsense.
‘And because people can’t trust what this man says, I think setting that date in law is a very good idea,’ Ms Swinson told the BBC’ Radio 4 Today programme.
The Lib Dem leader said there were various reasons why December 9 made more sense than December 12 for an election.
‘Clearly, it’s three further days away from Christmas and I understand that the public appetite for an election around Christmas is not necessarily high so I think, from the point of view of the economy and retailers, keeping it as far away as possible is helpful,’ she said.
‘What waiting would do is risk No Deal, because if we waste this extension and we end up in January with that 31st of January deadline looming, assuming it is granted today, and we haven’t done anything with this time, then there’s no guarantee the EU will extend again and then no-deal is back on the table.’
John McDonnell responded with fury to the prospect of the Lib Dems, SNP and Tories working together to force an early election
The prospect of the Lib Dems and SNP working with the Tories to force an early election sparked anger from Labour frontbenchers.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, tweeted: ‘Looks like the Lib Dem and Tory pact of 2010 is being re-established.
‘They are back together, selling out the People’s Vote campaign and the cross party campaign to prevent a no deal.
‘The Lib Dems will stop at nothing to get their ministerial cars back.’
Last night Labour frontbencher Lucy Powell told the Westminster Hour that an ‘election soon is now both inevitable and necessary’.
She said: ‘Parliament is in a deadlock and we need to break that deadlock somehow, even if Brexit is done.
‘The issue is the terms of that election, the when and how of that election. I think what we’ve seen from the Liberal Democrats and the SNP is trying to shape the terms of that election in a way that would favour them the most, it’s pure playing of politics.’
The Brexit endgame: How the crisis might develop as Boris Johnson struggles to cut ties with EU
The Prime Minister has missed his ‘do or die’ Halloween Brexit deadline, which means the UK will stay in the EU until January 31 next year, unless Parliament ratifies his deal before then.
With that ‘flextension’ now confirmed by the EU, attention now turns to the matter of a general election.
So is it as straightforward as setting a date and getting on with it? Not quite. Here is a look at how things stand.
What does Boris Johnson want to do now and is he likely to succeed?
First, Mr Johnson is making an election bid under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (FTPA), requiring a two-thirds Commons majority – 434 MPs – to have an election on December 12.
Labour’s lack of support for the proposal means it is likely to be defeated when voted upon on Monday evening.
Jeremy Corbyn has insisted that Labour can only support an election once the threat of a no-deal crash-out from the European Union has been completely ruled out.
Why is there opposition to an election on December 12?
Concerns have been raised about a December election for a number of reasons – not all of them political.
There is talk of voters staying away, discouraged by cold wintry evenings, while others could well be booked up with office Christmas parties, nativity plays, shopping and generally busying themselves with festive fun.
There are also potential issues with councils being unable to book polling stations and count venues with such short notice.
Has December 9 also been mentioned as a potential date?
Yes. Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford have put forward a tightly-drafted Bill that would grant an election on December 9 – three days earlier than the PM’s suggested polling date – as long as the European Union granted the January 31 extension.
The draft law, currently scheduled to be debated in Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Commons, would require a simple majority of 320 MPs to support it in order to dissolve Parliament – 114 fewer than under the FTPA ‘super majority’ rules.
What difference does three days make?
Ms Swinson said her proposal ties Mr Johnson’s hands over the election date and does not give him the ‘wriggle room’ that his own plan would have.
She said it is three further days away from Christmas, adding that keeping the election day as far away from December 25 is in the best interest of the economy.
The Lib Dem leader also pointed out that December 9 would be a better date for university students who may be leaving university towns to return home for Christmas at the end of term.
Are the Lib Dems and the SNP keen to have an election at the earliest possible opportunity?
It would seem so. Ms Swinson said December 9 is the earliest possible date to have an election if the Bill is passed, meaning that an election happens ‘as soon as possible’.
Both the Lib Dems and the SNP would hope to benefit from an election before Brexit takes place because they will be hoping to win the backing of people who want Brexit scrapped.
The Lib Dems have campaigned for a People’s Vote, while the SNP has also been vocal in its support of a second Brexit referendum.
So where does Labour stand on all of this?
While some around Jeremy Corbyn back a snap election, many Labour MPs are bitterly opposed to a poll, fearing confusion over the party’s position on Brexit will cost them at the ballot box.
The party has said it will only back an election if Mr Johnson makes ‘absolutely clear’ that no-deal is off the table now that the January extension has been granted.
But it is not entirely clear what steps Mr Johnson would have to take to satisfy Labour that no-deal has completely been ruled out.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott suggested further legislation may be required as promises by Mr Johnson were ‘not worth the paper they’re written on’.
She said that Labour would ‘discuss’ the Lib Dems/SNP Bill with opposition colleagues.
Mr Corbyn had previously said he wanted to wait for the EU’s decision over the length of the Article 50 extension before deciding whether to whip MPs in support of Mr Johnson’s bid for a winter election.
What will the Prime Minister do if he fails in his bid to hold an election on December 12?
A Number 10 source said on Monday afternoon that if Mr Johnson fails, the Government will introduce an ‘almost identical’ Bill to the December 9 general election proposals put forward by the Lib Dems and SNP.
‘We need a new Parliament by Christmas so we can Get Brexit Done in January and the country can move on,’ the source said.
Labour will NEVER govern under Jeremy Corbyn due to his ‘extremely poor personal ratings’, says Lord Mandelson
Lord Mandelson has launched a brutal assault on Jeremy Corbyn, arguing a Labour government is impossible under his leadership.
The Blairite peer, who was one of the architects of New Labour and a Cabinet minister under Gordon Brown, also fires a broadside at the party’s ‘statist’ economic policies.
In a report, he warns that in government, ‘Chancellor’ John McDonnell would hand power to ‘a new generation of trade union barons’ and ‘reassert the statist mindset that New Labour disavowed’.
But he adds: ‘Were it not for Jeremy Corbyn’s extremely poor personal ratings – they make a majority Labour government an impossibility while he remains – Labour’s prospects would be far stronger than the party’s detractors imagine.’
His comments come in the foreword to a report by the free market think-tank Policy Exchange, which highlights the dangers of ‘McDonnellomics’ to the City of London.
The report examines Mr McDonnell’s plans for the economy and warns they are rooted in the politics of the 1970s hard Left.
It concludes a Labour government would in a short period undermine investor confidence, damage the tax base and hurt growth.
Labour’s plans for the City would be a ‘gift’ to financial centres in New York, Tokyo and elsewhere, it says.
The report’s author, head of economics Warwick Lightfoot, said a McDonnell ‘experiment’ would hit companies and ordinary people.
Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell want to bring rail, water, electricity and other utilities back into public ownership, policies that would cost hundreds of billions of pounds.
Mr Lightfoot said: ‘John McDonnell has set out a highly ambitious policy agenda in terms of increases in public spending, taxation, nationalisation, modifications to property rights and employment and industrial relations law.
‘This economic experiment would, over time, have a radical and transformational impact on the UK’s economy. But there is much more doubt about how it would benefit businesses and employees.’