UK's December polls certain as MPs back it

Updated: Oct 31, 2019, 09:00 IST | Agencies | London

The decision also came hours after the European Union (EU) formally agreed to postpone Britain's departure again, up to the end of January, the House of Commons on Tuesday night backed the election date in a vote by a 438 to 20 margin

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's PRU shows Johnson as he speaks during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons in London. Pic/AFP
A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's PRU shows Johnson as he speaks during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons in London. Pic/AFP

London: The UK is all set to go to the polls on December 12 after British lawmakers overwhelmingly backed Prime Minister Boris Johnson's call for an election to break the Brexit deadlock that led to the country's worst political crisis in decades. The election, which Johnson has attempted to secure for nearly two months, was sealed after the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats broke ranks with the Labour Party and indicated they would be prepared to back a poll, having previously worked together to frustrate his efforts. The decision also came hours after the European Union (EU) formally agreed to postpone Britain's departure again, up to the end of January, the House of Commons on Tuesday night backed the election date in a vote by a 438 to 20 margin.

The five-year term of the current Parliament was to end in May, 2022. It will be the UK's third election in four years and the first December poll since 1923. The legislation passed by the Commons will now go to the House of Lords, where it is not expected to be opposed and Parliament will be dissolved next week. Once that happens, there will be a five-week campaign up to the polling day. The development marks a win for Johnson's bid for a pre-Christmas poll to try and win a public mandate in favour of his Brexit plan under which Britain will quit the EU. But the move is still a risk for his Conservative Party -- which lost a slim majority when his predecessor Theresa May took a similar gamble and called a vote in 2017.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced on Tuesday that he would back an election because the EU's decision to grant a three month Brexit extension to January 31 meant no-deal had been taken off the table. The UK prime minister can only hold an early election with the support of MPs, who have previously blocked it three times. But with MPs overall backing a December poll, a pre-Christmas election was certain. The prospect of an election became more and more likely after the EU had agreed on a three-month extension to the October 31 Brexit deadline. This meant Johnson's "do or die" pledge to leave the 28-member economic bloc by Halloween was effectively dead and he was determined to push through an early poll to try and change his current minority figures in Parliament. The prime minister said the public must be "given a choice" over the future of Brexit and the country. Johnson said it was time for the country to "come together to get Brexit done", as he left a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives held minutes after the vote.

The Labour Party had so far refused to back an early poll until the threat of a no-deal crash out by end of October had been taken off the table, a condition which was met with the new Brexit deadline now being January 31, 2020. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the snap poll was a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to transform the country. Writing in the Daily Mirror, he said: "We're launching the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change that our country has ever seen." Over 100 Labour MPs did not take part or abstained in Tuesday's crucial vote, while 11 voted against an election. A total of 127 Labour MPs, including Corbyn, supported the election. But Prime Minister Johnson hopes the vote will give him a fresh mandate for his deal to leave the EU and break the current deadlock in Parliament. He told Conservative MPs it was time for the country to "come together to get Brexit done", adding: "It'll be a tough election and we are going to do the best we can." The election provides opposition parties and voters a chance to forge a path towards a second referendum on the issue of Brexit.

2022

Year the term of the current parliament was to end

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