(LONDON) — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to gain enough parliamentary support to hold an early national election on October 15.
The vote came after Parliament voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit in defiance of Johnson, who had said that a general election was the only way out of the country’s deepening political crisis.
298 MPs voted in favor of an early election, with 56 voting against. But to hold a so-called snap election, Johnson needed the support of two-thirds of the 650 legislators in the House of Commons — or 434 affirmative votes.
Much of the opposition Labour Party chose to abstain from the vote, hoping for legislation preventing a no-deal Brexit prior to the national election.
Lawmakers previously voted 327 to 299 in favor of a law that will force the prime minister to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline of Oct. 31 if he has not agreed a deal with EU leaders — a deal that remains unlikely to pass through Parliament. In response, Johnson, who had promised to leave the EU with or without a deal, said that “there must now be an election on Tuesday 15 October.”
The vote to block “no-deal” was the second defeat for Johnson’s embattled government in two days, after several members of his own Conservative Party voted against him to bring forward the legislation voted on Wednesday. The political turmoil saw 21 Conservative members of Parliament expelled from the party, including Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Britain’s World War II leader Winston Churchill.
The government’s loss of the crucial vote, dubbed a “showdown” by the British media, is a major blow to the Johnson government’s plans of leaving the EU by the end of October.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to request an extension to the previous Brexit deadline of March 31, and subsequently resigned after the deal she had negotiated with EU leaders was voted down three times by lawmakers earlier this year.
Johnson’s Conservative Party lost their majority in Parliament Tuesday vote after lawmaker Phillip Lee defected to the Liberal Democrat Party, which advocates a second referendum and remaining in the EU. In dramatic scenes, Lee “crossed the floor,” physically leaving the Conservative Party to join the opposition on the other side of the chamber.
Johnson has repeatedly said he would prefer to leave the EU with a deal, although they were willing to leave without one “do or die.”
The Johnson government’s highly controversial move to suspend Parliament during the crucial Brexit period appears to have united opposition to Johnson’s Brexit plans. Critics of a no-deal Brexit have long warned that it would have a disastrous impact on the British economy. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly called for a general election.
Johnson, who helped lead the push to exit the EU in a national referendum three years ago, took over from May in July.
He has been an ally of President Donald Trump, and the two met just a couple weeks ago at the G-7 summit. Trump supported Johnson in comments on Wednesday, saying, “Boris is a friend of mine. And he’s going at it. There’s no question about it. I watched him this morning. He’s in there fighting.”
“Boris knows how to win,” he added. “Don’t worry about him.”
Johnson has appointed a government of mainly Brexit supporters, which has positioned the Conservatives as the party of Brexit in the event of an election.
A general election would likely be chaotic and extremely bitter, and there are no guarantees it would transform the parliamentary arithmetic in favor or against advocates of a no-deal Brexit.
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