U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is taking a huge gamble on his . Haunted by the repeated failures of previous Prime Minister Theresa May and his historic losing streak in Parliament, Johnson is now racing against the clock to make Britain leave the European Union, "do or die, come what may." October has been hectic and anxious for the Johnson government. He lost his majority in Parliament, requested another extension from the E.U. thanks to the force of the Benn Act, and lost two key votes on the Letwin amendment and the expedited timetable after securing a new draft Brexit agreement. Johnson will overrun the October 31 deadline he campaigned on because it seems the E.U. will grant the U.K. one more flexible extension. Still, Johnson is throwing his career on the line in a big gamble, going all in on betting that Parliament will finally approve his Brexit deal and hold a general election before the new E.U. deadline.
Johnson must push Parliament to pass the Brexit deal, or the withdrawal agreement bill. The problem is the math looks bad. Johnson's Conservative Party only holds 287 seats out of 639 in Parliament. Johnson needs to whip all Tories into voting yes as well as persuade opposition MPs in order to attain 320 votes for passage. Assuming all Tories vote for the deal, the government needs the support of the 10 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs who serve as confidence and supply. But the DUP dislikes the deal due to its creation of a customs border in the Irish Sea. The Liberal Democrat, Scottish National, Plaid Cymru, Change U.K., and Green parties all oppose Johnson's deal and Brexit generally. Labour and its 244 MPs officially oppose the deal, though Johnson will go after some MPs with pro-Brexit constituencies. That leaves the 36 Independents, 23 of whom are former Tories the party kicked out in September. Even with all 23, Johnson will not enjoy a majority, as he needs Labour support. He needs at least 10 defecting Labour votes to reach a bare majority. But he also faces a problem at home, the 80 Tories of the European Research Group, a hardcore Euroskeptic bloc that killed May's deal. Johnson's delicate balancing act means that every vote matters while he tries to cobble together a difficult majority.
Johnson also deeply wants a snap general election on December 12 in order to consolidate and grow his waning power. He threatened the government will "go on strike" and refuse to table any new legislation unless Parliament schedules a general election on his desired date. He believes Labour will vote for a general election out of fear of seeming cowardly. Assuming a two-thirds supermajority of Parliament approves a general election, Johnson will campaign on reaching a new Brexit deal. But the move is risky, as many hardline Euroskeptic voters want a hard Brexit without a deal and might vote for Nigel Farage's Brexit Party in protest. Labour and Liberal Democrats will campaign on a second, more specific Brexit referendum, attracting energized pro-E.U. voters. Although current polls show Tories hold a modest lead over Labour, campaign season can easily shift voting sentiment, as May discovered. Johnson could lose his government, regain a majority, or resurface with another hung Parliament. But Johnson is convinced a snap election will boost his fortunes, so he is willing to gamble it all.
- 1. https://youtu.be/aN90gg2koQM
- 2. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-50175914
- 3. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/26/dup-arlene-foster-johnson-brexit-northern-ireland
- 4. https://www.politico.eu/article/boris-johnson-calls-for-uk-election-on-december-12/
- 5. https://www.businessinsider.com/boris-johnson-brexit-election-bid-could-make-jeremy-corbyn-pm-2019-10