20:20 GMT21 October 2020
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    Political Turmoil in UK as Boris Johnson Struggles to Deliver Brexit (58)

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is moving to expel a group of conservative lawmakers who defied the government and voted in favour of an attempt to prevent a potential no-deal Brexit, a spokesman from Johnson's office confirmed.

    At least 21 Tory MPs have been expelled from the governing party after voting against Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in an attempt to block a no-deal Brexit.

    The Conservative chief whip, Mark Spencer, called the lawmakers, including former Chancellor Philip Hammond and Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, and stripped them of their whip, meaning they have been expelled from the party.

    The bill passed in a 328 to 301 vote on Tuesday, with 21 members of the governing Conservative Party defecting and joining the opposition. Johnson responded to the bill's passage by telling Parliament that he planned to call for snap general elections. The formal request would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons.

    "I don't want an election, the public don’t want an election, but if the House votes for this bill tomorrow, the public will have to choose who goes to Brussels on October 17 to sort this out and take this country forward", he said minutes after the vote, referring to the possibility that lawmakers could vote on the bill as soon as Wednesday.

    To call an election before 2022 under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act Johnson would need support from Labour, as he requires the backing of two-thirds of the UK's 650 MPs.

    Reaction in Parliament

    Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the legislation backed by opposition MPs and Tory rebels should pass before any election was held, to "take no-deal off the table".

    "He isn't winning friends in Europe. He's losing friends at home. His is a government with no mandate, no morals and, as of today, no majority", Corbyn said.

    Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said he did not put it past Boris Johnson to call an election for mid-October and then change the date afterwards. He said the prime minister could "change the date so that during the general election campaign we crash out of the European Union with a no-deal".

    A pro-Brexit supporter holds a placard outside Cabinet Office in London, Britain August 29, 2019
    A pro-Brexit supporter holds a placard outside Cabinet Office in London, Britain August 29, 2019

    "We want it bolting down that a no-deal Brexit can't occur, and once that's done, we want a general election as soon as possible", he told the BBC.

    Johnson's move to expel rebel Tories has also infuriated many longtime, prominent party members.

    Dominic Grieve, who was attorney general in David Cameron's government, said the expulsion threats demonstrate Johnson's "ruthlessness".

    MP Justine Greening said she feared her beloved party was "morphing into Nigel Farage's Brexit Party", in a reference to the UK's foremost Euroskeptic and the party he leads. Former Treasury chief Philip Hammond warned of the "fight of a lifetime" if officials tried to prevent him from running in the next election.

    SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he was "delighted" that MPs had expressed a "very clear view" in favour of a law to block no-deal.

     "Boris Johnson and his government must respect the right of parliamentarians to represent the interests of their constituents. Yes, there must be an election, but an election follows on from securing an extension to the [Brexit deadline]", he said.

    Johnson Wants to Make Tories Party of 'Leave' - Scholar

    Commenting on the crisis, Mark Garnett, a politics professor at Lancaster University, stressed it shows that Johnson was never interested in negotiating a new deal with Brussels.

    "By saying that the Irish backstop would have to be removed he was making it impossible for the EU to talk seriously with him. Instead, he was hoping to improve his chances of winning a general election by establishing the Conservatives as the true party of 'Leave', removing the threat from the Brexit Party", he said.

    According to the scholar, however, Johnson forgot that there are plenty of "Leavers" in the UK who don't like the no-deal scenario.

    "In addition, his tactics have depended on a series of public statements which do not coincide precisely with his private thoughts. Almost every British politician will deviate from the truth in a tight corner, but Johnson gives the impression that he only tells the truth about anything when he speaks without thinking", Garnett stated.

    Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons in London, Britain
    © REUTERS / Jessica Taylor
    Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons in London, Britain

    "So I would say that the horrible complexity of Brexit has now been overshadowed by the question of trust. Johnson clearly thinks that most voters assume that politicians lie all the time, but in his recent statements, it looks as if he has crossed the line and destroyed his credibility in the eyes of anyone who is not already a fanatical supporter for other reasons. For Johnson (unlike, say, Donald Trump) the problem is that Johnson had tried before this to present himself as a very amusing, friendly sort of guy".

    He also predicted that Johnson is very unlikely to be Prime Minister around this time next year.

    New Brexit Memes

    Aside from another turn in the Brexit process, with one of the most consequential debates in parliamentary history, Tuesday's vote gifted netizens a memorable image of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who spent a significant portion of the time slouched on the government front bench.

    The leader of the House of Commons was heavily criticised by fellow MPs, who accused him of showing contempt for Parliament as he reclined on the green benches, while also becoming a target for many Brexit-related memes.

    Views and opinions, expressed by professor Mark Garnett in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Political Turmoil in UK as Boris Johnson Struggles to Deliver Brexit (58)


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    UK, UK Conservative Party, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brexit delay, Brexit Plan, Brexiteers, no-Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, Boris Johnson
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