Boris Johnson is considering calling a snap election – what’s going on?
If Boris Johnson is defeated in a Parliamentary vote this week he has fuelled rumours that he might plan a snap election, Dods Monitoring's Laura Hutchinson explains what's going on.
With no majority in Parliament and with MPs attempting to bind the Government to request an extension to Article 50, the Prime Minister is said to be actively considering holding a vote to approve an early General Election.
A General Election is inevitable
Johnson has repeatedly stated that the UK will leave the European Union on 31st October, “do or die.” Senior party figures have warned that a failure to deliver Brexit by the end of next month could be electorally catastrophic, with the Brexit Party poised to capitalise.
For this reason, Johnson is desperate to avoid allowing MPs to bind him to request an extension to Article 50. However, with the current parliamentary arithmetic, he has little chance of stopping them. Furthermore, despite recent chatter, it is not possible to see how he would legally ignore any legislation that is passed.
The only way out of this conundrum, therefore, is to table a motion to trigger a General Election and seek a fresh mandate for his version of Brexit: ‘MPs won’t let me leave on 31st October so give me the mandate to do so.’
To pass this he would need two thirds of MPs to vote for it and could bring forward a motion as early as this week. Labour have spent the last two years vociferously demanding a General Election and it would politically difficult to oppose one.
Would a General Election increase the chances of a no deal exit?
Opponents of no-deal should be wary of using a General Election as a means of preventing no-deal.
Firstly, under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, it is up to the Prime Minister to recommend the date of the poll to the Queen. There is a possibility that Boris Johnson could convince MPs to vote for a General Election, promising to hold the poll before 31st October, but then actually set the date for November. This would be politically extreme but there is no obvious mechanism available to MPs that they could use to bind him to an earlier vote in this scenario.
Secondly, even if the poll was held before 31st October then the outcome of the poll is impossible to predict. The Conservatives are currently topping almost every national poll and a campaign message of ‘People Vs Parliament’ is likely to land well with people who simply want an end to Brexit. Whilst this could theoretically underpin a parliamentary majority for any deal presented by Johnson, continuing intractable differences between the EU and UK over the backstop could also produce parliamentary majority in favour of no-deal.
A General Election this year will set the course of the UK for decades
The importance of a General Election being held this year cannot be overstated. The result could define the UKs future for generations.
However, divisions in the country are unlikely to be healed as a result of a fractious General Election campaign, and there is the very real possibility of a further hung Parliament being formed, with no direction, no mandate and no consensus.
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