A rebel alliance has passed a bill outlawing a no-deal Brexit in a humiliating defeat for Boris Johnson who demanded an October 15 election.
Just six weeks into his Prime Ministership, MPs voted 327-299 to force a Brexit extension if a deal is not struck with the European Union.
It came after Mr Johnson on Tuesday lost control of the parliamentary agenda when 21 Conservative MPs sided with the opposition to bring forward the bill.
However the battle is not over as the bill must go to the House of Lord’s where it may face delaying tactics with dozens of amendments.
Mr Johnson reacted to his defeat in the House of Commons by putting forward a motion for a snap election which was defeated by 136 votes. Labour MPs were instructed to abstain from the vote.
“In the view of this government there must now be an election on Tuesday 15 October,” Mr Johnson said.
“I don’t want an election, the public does not want an election, the country doesn’t want the election.
“But this house has left no other option than letting the public decide who they want as Prime Minister.”
Boris Johnson fails to win the backing of enough MPs to hold a snap election next month, falling short of the two-thirds majority required by law
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 4, 2019
Johnson insists Britain must leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal, and he accused the opposition of trying to “overturn the biggest democratic vote in our history” – referring to the referendum.
Despite previously insisting on an election, Labour refused to support one until the bill is passed.
“Let the bill pass and have Royal Assent and then we can have a general election,” said Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
As debate raged earlier in parliament, insults were fired, with the Prime Minister ridiculing his Labour opponent for running scared from an election.
“There’s only one chlorinated chicken that I can see … and he’s on that bench,” Mr Johnson said.
Mr Johnson also appeared to taunt Mr Corbyn by shouting that the Labor leader was a “big girl’s blouse” – choice language for a “coward”.
Earlier Mr Johnson hurled another attack on Mr Corbyn’s fortitude, labelling him a “frit and chicken” while addressing reporters.
“Frit” is short for “frightened” and was famously used by Margaret Thatcher in 1983 but was also deployed against former Prime Minister Theresa May during her own Brexit battles.
Mr Johnson has cast the legislative move in the House of Commons as an attempt to surrender to the EU over Brexit.
The UK still fundamentally has three main Brexit options: leave with a deal, leave without a deal or cancel Brexit altogether.
In a sign of just how far Brexit has distorted British politics, Mr Johnson’s Conservatives vowed to expel the 21 rebels – including the grandson of Britain’s World War Two leader Winston Churchill and two former finance ministers – from the party.
In one piece of good news for Mr Johnson, the face of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, a Scottish court ruled that his decision to suspend parliament later this month was lawful.
Judge Raymond Doherty said the question was not a matter for the courts and was a political issue which should be judged by parliament and the electorate.
Mr Johnson said he did not want a no-deal Brexit – which investors warn would roil financial markets and send shockwaves through the European economy – but it was necessary to put it on the table so that Britain could negotiate the result it wanted.
The EU has refused to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement reached with Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May last November, and there were reports in British newspapers that his top adviser Dominic Cummings had described negotiations as a sham.
When asked on Wednesday if that was how he saw the Brexit negotiations with the EU, Mr Cummings told Reuters: “No. I never said that.”