It’s quite hard to know where people are up to in The Brexit Story, but let’s start here: The prime minister’s brother just walked out of the government.
Jo Johnson, who had been the MP for Orpington since 2010, tweeted his resignation from his brother’s government over what he described as “unresolvable tension”. It’s yet another brutal blow for the new prime minister.
Now, with Parliament currently going through the process of blocking a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, Johnson simply doesn’t have the numbers to call the election he wants — his government got smashed trying to trigger an election late on Wednesday night. Jeremy Corbyn is pretty much in control in terms of when an election happens because Johnson needs Labour’s votes.
Last night, the House of Lords decided it wouldn’t go through days and nights of delaying the anti–no-deal legislation, so that’s pretty much guaranteed to pass in the coming days.
The law passes, an election is coming, the government has no majority, please stay calm, make a cuppa, and let’s see how this can shake out.
1. Corbyn agrees to an Oct. 15 election.
Johnson is bringing his election motion back on Monday. That’s why the pro-Conservative newspapers are reverting to an all-out PR war, which involves photoshopping Corbyn into various poses as a “chicken”. They’re trying to get him to agree to an election as soon as possible. They’re desperate.
Now, Corbyn may ultimately decide to agree to Johnson’s request for an election on Oct. 15 — that would mean the Rebel Alliance legislation to block no-deal passes, but the election happens before the PM is forced to ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline. Corbyn wants to be the prime minister after all, right. Right?!
BUT the Oct. 15 election is what Johnson wants more than anything. It lets him have a very populist-sounding election, which pits him versus the “anti-Brexit Parliament”.
If it’s going to happen, Corbyn has to agree by Thursday — that’s the last date by which an election can be called in October.
2. Corbyn insists on an election after Oct. 19.
Labour MPs led by their shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer are trying to convince Corbyn TO NOT give Johnson what he wants before the all-important Brexit extension is secured.
Their public reasoning is that they need to make sure the extension has been agreed before the election is called, so Johnson cannot play fast and loose and change the election date until after Brexit. But their actual reason for a post-extension election is the embarrassment it would cause Johnson.
The prime minister has promised he will not agree to another Brexit extension under any circumstances.
3. Johnson refuses to abide by the law.
This is where things get real, like shit-hits-Big-Ben, call your mother.
One option — which as we’ve previously reported has been considered at the very top of Number 10 — is for Boris Johnson simply to ignore the new law that says he must seek an extension to Brexit.
Johnson could tell the Queen not to give the new law royal assent. Or, if it does become law, Johnson could refuse to send the extension request to Brussels.
This batshit mental move would end up in court and could even theoretically risk Johnson being arrested for breaking the law.
Unlikely, yes, but this is Brexit. People are out here living their weirdest lives.
4. Johnson asks a sympathetic European country to veto a Brexit extension.
Have you recovered from the possibility of the prime minister getting arrested? Well, here’s another one for you.
Johnson might try to convince one of the 27 other European countries in the EU to exercise its veto, stopping any extension to Article 50.
For example, Johnson could call up Hungary’s right-wing populist prime minister Viktor Orbán, and say, “Viktor, we need a favour, block it.”
There’s absolutely no indication any of the 27 leaders, even the most sympathetic anti-EU leaders, would be up for this, though.
5. Johnson tries to get around the Fixed-term Parliament Act.
The Fixed-term Parliament Act (FTPA), brought in by then-prime minister David Cameron, says that two-thirds of the House of Commons must vote for an election for one to be called. Johnson doesn’t have two-thirds of MPs to call — not even close.
So, Johnson could try to get around this by bringing in a new bill, which would override the FTPA with a simple majority.
The problem is with the Scottish National Party currently supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s position, it doesn’t look like Johnson has a simple majority either. They could change their minds on Monday, though. That said, the bill would probably be killed in the Lords.
How about this for an insult to injury: The government’s controversial decision to suspend Parliament next week now means there are very few days for them to come up with this type of chicanery. You absolutely love to see it.
6. Johnson calls a confidence vote...in himself.
If Johnson has no way of calling an election on his own terms he might take the insane step of calling a vote of no confidence in himself. Then, deliberately try to lose it.
Corbyn would be in a tricky position as he could hardly vote that he has confidence in Johnson’s government.
If Johnson successfully “lost” the vote — yes, this is getting silly now — it would trigger a process by which opposition parties have 14 days to form a new government or face an election.
7. Johnson resigns.
It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that Johnson, faced with no way of calling an election before having to extend the Brexit deadline, and unwilling to break the law, decides he just cannot break his promise to the British people not to delay Brexit: He resigns as prime minister.
Either another Conservative or an opposition MP would have to try to secure the confidence of the Commons. Remember, there doesn’t have to be an election yet. The Commons, with the current intake of MPs, could go into government-building mode.
But Johnson has wanted to be prime minister his whole life — would he really give up the job after just a few weeks?
8. Corbyn calls the confidence vote.
Alternatively, Corbyn could try to seize the initiative and — once the legislation blocking no-deal has passed — call a vote of no confidence in Johnson. Johnson has lost every single one of his Commons votes so far. He might well lose this one, if Corbyn went for it.
9. Corbyn becomes prime minister before the election.
During the 14-day period, Corbyn would first try to form a Labour government. He could be backed by the expelled Conservative rebels (not likely, but still), the Lib Dems, and the SNP and get a majority.
Then he would expect to be called in by the Queen and appointed prime minister.
10. A Government of National Unity.
If Corbyn can’t form a majority — and trust us, it’s entirely possible even Labour MPs could thwart him — then opposition MPs could try to form a Government of National Unity. It could perhaps be led by someone like the newly independent MP Ken Clarke.
This seems extremely unlikely — if MPs refuse to put Corbyn in, why would he back someone else?
11. Johnson eventually gets an election in October, or November, and wins.
It does seem that an election, either on Johnson’s terms in October or on Labour’s terms in November, is inevitable.
It’s possible that Johnson’s election pitch in favour of a no-deal Brexit, while accusing opposition MPs of blocking the “will of the people”, is popular and secures him a Commons majority.
Then, ladies and gentleman, newly elected prime minister Boris Johnson overturns the no-deal legislation and sets the country on course for a no-deal Brexit.
12. Corbyn wins the election.
Alternatively, the Brexit chaos could cost the Tories big time. Faced with the no-deal Brexit cliff, voters may propel Corbyn into Downing Street.
Labour’s Brexit policy is a fucking mess tbh, but prime minister Corbyn would likely try to strike a new deal with the European Union. He may then put that deal to a referendum. Remember referendums? REMEMBER THOSE.
13. There’s an election, but it delivers a hung Parliament.
Arguably the outcome to cause the greatest chill throughout Westminster is that an election is held and there’s no clear winner. There’s another hung Parliament.
Johnson would remain as prime minister until another MP can secure the confidence of the Commons. And there’s just no way of knowing what would happen next.
This really is the scenario that would prolong the country’s long Brexit nightmare — and you absolutely should not rule it out.
Of course, all this could be solved if the EU just agreed to take out, or time-limit the Northern Ireland backstop — the insurance policy that ensures an open border on the island of Ireland, which is very important — that’s currently preventing many Tory MPs in Parliament from voting for a deal.
The problem is the EU has ruled out ever doing this. If they blink or cave, which they said they won’t, maybe a new Brexit deal could pass the Parliament? Simple!