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UK set for elections in December

By Jonathan Powell in London (China Daily) Updated: 2019-10-30 07:54

Corbyn ready to back Johnson's plan as possibility of no-deal Brexit is ruled out

The United Kingdom government's call for a general election in December was set to pass after opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday said his Labour Party would back an early poll because his condition of taking a no-deal Brexit off the table "has now been met".

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was set to try for a fourth time to take Britain to the polls with a fresh attempt to get backing from members of Parliament later in the day.

The first three times he put forward a motion under the Fixed-term Parliament Act, which needs the support of two-thirds of all 650 MPs to pass, but cannot be amended by those wanting to add their own conditions to an election.

This time, Johnson and his government will put forward a short bill calling for an election on Dec 12 and try to pass it through all of its stages in the House of Commons in one day.

It will only need a majority of one to win, but unlike with his other attempts, MPs could table amendments - such as a proposal to lower the voting age.

On Monday, Johnson accepted a Brexit extension until Jan 31 and urged European Union leaders not to grant any further delays. It is the third time that the UK has requested a delay on Brexit since failing to meet its first deadline on March 31.

Addressing the shadow cabinet on Tuesday, Corbyn said: "I have consistently said that we are ready for an election and our support is subject to a no-deal Brexit being off the table.

"We have now heard from the EU that the extension of Article 50 to 31 January has been confirmed, so for the next three months, our condition of taking no-deal off the table has now been met.

"We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen."

'Up for fight'

Later, Corbyn was asked by reporters if there would be any preconditions to backing an election, and he simply said "there will be a parliamentary process".

Labour was expected to support amendments to the election bill being tabled in the Commons, and the party is understood to want to back a change to the proposed poll date of Dec 12.

The Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats were initially calling for an election on Dec 9. The two parties say it would prevent Johnson from pushing his Brexit plan through Parliament ahead of a poll.

Downing Street sources told the BBC they would accept an election on Dec 11 to get opposition parties on board.

Richard Burgon, Labour's shadow justice secretary, said: "Yes, we'll be supporting a general election because we want to get Boris Johnson out by Christmas.

"Jeremy has made it clear ...the team has decided that we'll be backing a general election.

"We're up for the fight, and we believe we're going to win it. We believe we can make Boris Johnson the shortest-serving prime minister since a guy called Viscount Goderich - he was prime minister for just 144 days in 1827.

"We want to see the prime minister writing his Christmas cards from a country retreat that's not called Chequers."

When asked whether it should be on Dec 9 or 12, or another date, Burgon said: "We just want a general election - we want them out before Christmas."

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