Boris Johnson has suggested he could push for a second suspension of parliament after opposition parties flatly rejected his challenge of a no-confidence vote.
The prime minister, making his first appearance before MPs since his suspension of parliament was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court, stuck by his stance that he wants to end the current parliamentary session.
Mr Johnson also defiantly stated he would not seek a fresh delay to Brexit, even if he doesn’t secure a fresh withdrawal agreement – or MPs approve a no-deal departure – by 19 October.
In often ill-tempered scenes as MPs returned to Westminster after the dramatic Supreme Court judgement, it was further revealed:
- The government will on Thursday push for a short parliamentary recess for the duration of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester next week;
- The prime minister challenged opposition parties to table a no-confidence vote on Thursday – but they refused;
- Mr Johnson did not rule out a second prorogation of parliament in order to allow a Queen’s Speech;
- The prime minister was heavily criticised for his claim the “best way” to honour murdered MP Jo Cox was to “get Brexit done”;
- Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson revealed she had reported a threat against her child to police;
- Labour’s Jess Phillips revealed a death threat against herself;
- MPs were said to be in tears and “distress” following angry exchanges in the House of Commons;
- Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox declared parliament “dead” and called for a general election.
Mr Johnson used his statement to MPs on Wednesday to tell MPs he would allow time for a no-confidence vote in his government on Thursday.
The prime minister set a deadline of until the end of parliamentary proceedings on Wednesday for opposition parties to table a motion.
Mr Johnson told Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn: “Come on, come on, come on then!”
He also extended the offer to other opposition parties if they “fancy a go”.
The prime minister asked: “Will they have the courage to act or will they refuse to take responsibility and do nothing but dither and delay?”
But Mr Corbyn immediately rejected Mr Johnson’s challenge.
The Labour leader told Mr Johnson to secure a fresh extension to the Article 50 negotiating period, thereby prolonging the UK’s membership of the EU, before he would agree to a general election.
Mr Corbyn said: “He says he wants a general election, I want a general election.
“It’s very simple, if he wants an election – get an extension and let’s have an election.”
He also repeated his demand for Mr Johnson to resign following the Supreme Court ruling, telling the Commons: “For the good of this country he should go.”
Both the SNP and Liberal Democrats also stuck to their demand that Mr Johnson secure a new delay to Brexit, beyond the current deadline of 31 October, before they would support a general election.
In later exchanges, the prime minister suggested he was planning a second prorogation of parliament, after his first was unsuccessful after being ruled unlawful by the UK’s highest court.
In reply to a question from independent MP Lady Hermon, Mr Johnson said: “I do think we need a Queen’s Speech, I do think we have a dynamic domestic agenda that we need to push forward.
“I will be informing her, as well as the rest of the House, as soon as we have assessed the meaning of the judgement in its entirety and when it will be appropriate to do so.”
Under legislation passed by opposition MPs earlier this month, Mr Johnson is compelled to seek a three-month extension to the Article 50 negotiating period if he does not secure a fresh Brexit deal – or MPs approve a no-deal Brexit – by 19 October.
But, asked by Labour’s Ian Murray if he would seek an extension in such a scenario, the prime minister simply replied: “No.”
Despite this raising the prospect of him breaching the legislation, Mr Johnson has also promised to “respect the law”.
MPs rushed back to Westminster following the Supreme Court ruling on what was also the final day of Labour’s annual conference in Brighton.
Later, Jacob Rees-Mogg – the Leader of the House of Commons – revealed MPs will be asked to approve a motion seeking a conference recess next week so that Conservatives can attend their own conference in Manchester.
Shadow leader of the House of Commons, Valerie Vaz, told Mr Rees-Mogg that Labour “stand ready to work with the government to ensure that the Tory party conference takes place in the fantastic Labour-led city of Manchester”.