BORIS Johnson has lost his tiny Commons majority this afternoon – just hours before a crunch vote this evening which could trigger an election.
Tory MP Phillip Lee defected to the Liberal Democrats right in front of the PM this afternoon as he gave a speech at the despatch box – and went to sit with them in the Commons.
As a new Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds was sworn in, Mr Lee was by her side, right under Boris’ nose.
After 27 years as a Tory he said “the party I joined in 1992 is not the Party I am leaving today”.
In a statement which plunged the party into the worst civil war in decades, he said: “This Conservative Government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways.
“It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and is endangering the integrity of the UK.
“It is using political manipulation, bullying and lies.”
Even with the support of the 10 DUP MPs, Boris can’t rely on passing laws or votes in the Commons.
As Westminster embarked on another momentous day in Parliament today:
- Boris blasted the bid to block No Deal as a “surrender bill”
- Tory rebels insisted they would ignore threats to stop them from as standing as MPs again
- Rebels Justine Greening and Alistair Burt dramatically announced their plans to quit the Commons
- Dominic Raab warned that any Brexit delay would cost Brits £1billion a month
- A hearing in Scotland revealed that Boris and officials were involved in discussions about shutting down Parliament two weeks before he announced it
- Nigel Farage named the price of a pact with the Brexit party as Boris going for a No Deal
The PM blasted the bid to try and stop No Deal as “Jeremy Corbyn’s surrender bill” in a defiant statement.
In his first appearance in the House of Commons after the summer break, he said it meant he would be “running up the white flag”.
“They would be able to keep us in the EU for as long as they like and on their term,” he blasted.
“There are no circumstances in which I will every accept anything like it.”
There will be no more “pointless delays” and he would finally get us out, he promised.
“Enough is enough. The country wants this done and they want the referendum respected.
“We are negotiating a deal and though I am confident of getting a deal, we will leave by October 31 in all circumstances.”
He also promised to uphold the rule of law too – calming fears his Government could ignore a new bit of legislation to stop a No Deal Brexit.
Boris also said he would meet the Irish PM Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Monday to discuss options to replace the hated backstop.
And he insisted again that “progress is being made” in talks with the EU, pleading with MPs to give him more time to secure one.
There are no circumstances in which I will every accept anything like it
Boris Johnson on Corbyn’s ‘surrender bill’
Earlier today Boris held peace talks with some of the rebels – and begged them not to back a radical move to give control of the Commons to the Labour boss tonight.
In a furious bust-up at No10 he told them: “You are handing power over to a junta that includes Jeremy Corbyn.”
The meeting was said to be courteous but Philip Hammond repeatedly interrupted the discussion and spoke over colleagues.
And Government sources claimed that he let slip that the rebel bill – which will be put to MPs tomorrow to try and stop a No Deal – was drawn up with assistance from the EU’s legal team.
But a spokesperson for Mr Hammond furiously denied the claims this afternoon.
They said: “This is ridiculous and categorically untrue. Philip made a point during the meeting this afternoon that it is the established view of the EU legal service that extension conditions cannot be applied by Brussels.
“That is a statement of fact – and something that was made clear during the last administration.”
Mr Hammond said earlier that he DID have the numbers to win today as he launched a furious attack on Boris’ Government.
The ex-Chancellor vowed to face down threats to sack him from the party and push ahead anyway, even if it triggers an election.
An emergency debate has been tabled – and will likely to be debated and face a knife-edge vote this evening.
Mr Hammond insisted he would vote to take control of the House of Commons off the Government and give it to Opposition MPs who will use it to block a No Deal Brexit.
Boris Johnson is planning to push for a snap election on October 14 if they win.
The former Chancellor raged this morning: “Now is the time where we have to put the national interests ahead of threats to us personally and our careers.
“There will be enough people to get this over the line today.”
Boris has vowed to take the whip off Tories who vote against him tonight, meaning they can’t stand again in an election.
However, Hammond and others are determined to ignore him and do it anyway.
He said there would be the “fight of a lifetime” if they tried to stop him.
Last night Amber Rudd warned Boris not to go through with his threat to withdraw them from the party, telling The Spectator: “We should not be a party that is trying to remove from our party two former chancellors, a number of ex-cabinet ministers.”
It was also revealed today that Tories who don’t vote for a Brexit deal that Boris brings back could also lose the Tory whip.
MPs now expect a general election in the weeks before Brexit – but Boris will need two thirds of MPs to vote for it first.
This morning Labour made it clear they wanted another vote, but only if it was guaranteed that Boris wouldn’t move the date after Brexit day and take Britain out without a deal.
Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti told the BBC: “We need to ensure we get this legislation locked down – a guarantee that Britain would not crash out of the EU in an election period.
“We need to try and make sure it wouldn’t be possible for a sitting, squatting PM to set an election and try and change the date.
“Then, we live and breathe for an election.”
No10 said this lunchtime that changing the date “simply is not going to happen” and it can’t happen after Parliament is dissolved for a poll.
Others have privately told whips they are worried they would lose a snap poll and urged Jeremy Corbyn to block it.
Yesterday the leftie boss said he would welcome a snap vote – which he’s been calling for for years.
He told supporters last night: “I’m ready for it, you’re ready for it, we’re ready for it.”
Today he said he’d taken legal advice amid fears Boris isn’t following the rules on an election timetable.
He told Sky: “We are looking at all the legal advice we are receiving at the present time but I think the important thing is to stop a no-deal exit and let the people of this country decide their own future.”
And he refused to say whether he’d bring a vote of no confidence forward in Boris.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned rebels today that their “deeply irresponsible” plans to delay Brexit yet again would cost taxpayers £1billion a month and would “cancel or delay Brexit”.
He insisted that Boris is “making good progress with the EU negotiations” and he has focused minds since coming to power.
“But the lingering doubt they’ve got is will the shenanigans in Parliament somehow lead to the cancellation or the delay of Brexit,” he told Good Morning Britain.
“That’s encouraging them and weakening our position to actually get the deal we all want.
“I would urge all MPs not to vote for this legislation…
“It would take any conditions imposed by the EU, and would cost the taxpayer £1billion each month.”
Mr Hammond said today that Boris was being “disingenuous” by suggesting he can get a deal with the EU.
“No progress is being made, the UK government have tabled no proposals,” he told Radio 4.
“And anything it does propose is likely to be rejected.”
Today it was claimed in the Daily Telegraph that one of Boris Johnson’s top advisers, Dominic Cummings, had described EU negotiations as “a sham”, and others said the plan was “run down the clock”.
The news has worried MPs who are convinced Boris is getting ready to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.
Downing Street said the claim was “categorically untrue” and that the chances of a deal have gone up after Boris’ charm offensive in recent weeks with Europe.
Boris dodged questions on the claims today in the Commons.
By Alex Matthews
PHILIP Hammond has blasted the sacking of ex-aide Sonia Khan as “shocking” and claims she could win an employment tribunal against the government.
Khan was dramatically marched out of Downing Street by armed cops last week after she was given her marching orders by Dominic Cummings.
Cummings, Boris Johnson’s Brexit Guru, allegedly claimed Treasury adviser Khan had been keeping in touch with her former boss Hammond.
The ex-Chancellor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: “It’s extraordinary that Dominic Cummings should have chosen to pick on her. She ironically is a very firm Brexiteer.
“If she went to an employment tribunal, I suspect she would win her case.”
It is understood Ms Khan was sacked in a fiery exchange with Cummings after she was forced to hand over both her work and personal phone-logs to show who she had been calling.
Chancellor Sajid Javid was said to be “absolutely furious” over the dismissal when he confronted the PM over the move.
Yesterday The Sun revealed how Boris was planning an early poll as a threat if MPs vote to stop a No Deal Brexit today.
In a clear threat to rebel MPs, the PM last night warned he would never go to Brussels and ask for Jeremy Corbyn’s “pointless” extension.
He said such a move would “chop the legs” away from him as he tried to negotiate a new deal with the EU.
In a bid to show voters it would not be his fault if an election is called, Mr Johnson said: “I don’t want an election, you don’t want an election. Let’s get on with the people’s agenda.”
“There are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay,” he told the nation in an address on the steps of Downing Street on Monday night.
Boris is riding high above Labour in the polls at the moment – and latest predictions show he could get a 28 seat majority.
But Theresa May‘s snap election gamble cost her her majority back in 2017 and Boris will be wary if he can win such a poll.
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