Boris Johnson will attempt to trigger a general election today after MPs – including 21 rebels from within his own party – inflicted a stinging defeat on him.
Members trying to avoid a no-deal Brexit next month won a dramatic vote to seize control of the parliamentary agenda today, paving the way for a delay in leaving the EU.
They succeeded by 328 to 301 votes to suspend a Commons rule that says only the government can create new laws – helped by the 21 Tory rebels who have now been thrown out of the party.
That number includes Philip Hammond, who was chancellor until six weeks ago, and other grandees such as Ken Clarke and Sir Nicholas Soames.
The group will now try on Wednesday to pass legislation forcing Boris Johnson to ask the EU to postpone Brexit if no new deal has been struck by 19 October or MPs have not endorsed a no-deal divorce.
Springing to his feet to respond, the prime minister said parliament was “on the brink of wrecking any deal that we might have been able to strike with Brussels”.
He insisted “I don’t want an election” but if he is forced to try to delay no-deal tomorrow, “the public will have to choose” who should “take this country forward”.
Mr Johnson said he would introduce the necessary law calling for a snap poll tomorrow, which will require two-thirds of MPs to support it to pass.
Jabbing his finger at Jeremy Corbyn, he added: “He will go to Brussels and beg for an extension. He will accept whatever Brussels demands and we will have years more arguments over Brexit.”
The Labour leader hit back, welcoming the result because “we live in a parliamentary democracy”.
He claimed there was “no majority for no-deal in the country” and “no consent in this house to leave the EU without a deal”.
Mr Corbyn also said he would support an election but only after the legislation has completed all the stages it needs to in parliament to “take no-deal off the table”.
Rebel Tory MPs were left reeling after they officially had the whip withdrawn, with one, Sam Gyimah, telling Sky News “it looks like they’ve also disabled our passes, which is a hostile act”.
A source close to the group said they had helped start a process to “avert an undemocratic and damaging no-deal”.
“Number 10 have responded by removing the whip from two former chancellors, a former lord chancellor and Winston Churchill’s grandson,” they added.
“What has has happened to the Conservative Party?”
Even before the debate was granted the Prime Minister suffered a setback, with former Conservative minister Dr Phillip Lee defecting to the Liberal Democrats.
During the debate, Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin accused Mr Johnson of not presenting any “viable” changes that could form the basis of a new deal, meaning the chances of achieving one are “slight”.
But Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg accused him of “stunning arrogance” for suggesting parliament deserved a chance to decide if it will accept a no-deal Brexit as the terms for Britain’s exit from the EU.
“Sovereignty in this house comes from the British people and the idea that we can overrule 17.4 million people is preposterous,” he declared in a heated debate on Tuesday night.
He also targeted Speaker John Bercow for allowing MPs to use the emergency debate mechanism.
“This is unquestionably irregular even though it is not improper,” Mr Rees-Mogg declared.
“It does considerable damage when some of us chose to subvert, rather than reinforce, to hinder rather than polish our constitution.”
But Mr Bercow defended the move, saying it was based on previous precedent from March 2013 and December 2018.
“It is in conformity with that practice that I have operated. I have taken advice of a professional kind,” he said.
And referencing Mr Johnson’s promise to deliver Brexit “do or die”, the Speaker added: “I have done it, I am doing it, and I will do it to the best of my availability without fear or favour. To coin a phrase come what may, do or die.”
Earlier, the government had its majority wiped when former minister Philip Lee defected to the Liberal Democrats right at the start of a statement from Mr Johnson on his trip to the G7 summit.