British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Thursday for an early election after a series of votes in parliament tore up his hardline Brexit stance and left him without a majority.
Johnson will deliver an address in which he “will argue that it is now time for the people to decide after parliament has failed them so we can resolve this once and for all,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
The timing of the vote itself was still being debated as the country raced toward an October 31 departure from the European Union without a plan for what comes next.
But election battle lines were drawn across the front pages of British newspapers after a particularly bruising week of UK politics did little to resolve the three-year impasse.
The main opposition Labour-backing Daily Mirror branded Johnson “Britain’s worst PM” for threatening a “reckless no-deal Brexit”.
The Daily Mail shot back by calling Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a “chicken” for refusing to back Johnson’s call for a general election on October 15.
Britain is racing towards a departure from the EU on October 31
The election talk ramped up despite a vote in parliament on Wednesday in which the main opposition Labour Party refused to heed Johnson’s call for an election — at least for now.
An opinion poll conducted by YouGov on Monday and Tuesday showed Johnson’s Conservatives leading Labour by 35 to 25 percent.
The pro-European Liberal Democrats were on 16 percent while the Brexit Party of populist Nigel Farage was in fourth place with 11 percent.
– ‘No real negotiations’ –
Parliament is rushing through legislation designed to keep Johnson from breaking Britain off from its closest trading partners without a negotiated agreement with Brussels.
They appeared on course to do so by Monday — a victory that would be accomplished just ahead of five-week shutdown of parliament Johnson controversially ordered at the end of last month.
The bill forces Johnson to seek a three-month Brexit extension until January 31 should no deal emerge from an EU summit in Brussels on October 17-18.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has the support of a quarter of the electorate, according to a recent poll
It passed the lower House of Commons with the support of 21 rebel Conservative MPs — who were promptly kicked out of the party.
The upper House of Lords ended an all-night filibuster by Johnson’s supporters early on Thursday and agreed to finish voting on the bill by Friday night.
The bill could then end up in the House of Commons on Monday to consider any changes. It would then go to Queen Elizabeth II for final approval.
Johnson rose to power in July on a pledge to deliver Brexit next month — “deal or no deal” — and refuses to seek a delay.
There is also no guarantee that the other 27 EU leaders will grant one for the third time this year.
“When I hear the British saying ‘Give us three months more and we will solve the problem’, we can see that another six months would not solve the problem,” France’s European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin said on Thursday.
Greens European Parliament leader Philippe Lamberts, speaking after a meeting with EU negotiator on Wednesday, said: “For all the PM’s bluster about getting a deal, there are no real negotiations going on in Brussels”.
– ‘He’s going to be okay’ –
The main debate within Labour and the smaller pro-EU opposition parties is when to schedule Britain’s third general election in four years.
Young members of the Conservative Party protest their opposition to leaving the EU without a deal
Labour says it will only back the poll once it makes sure Johnson is unable to take Britain out without a deal.
“The problem that we’ve got is that we cannot at the moment have any confidence in Boris Johnson abiding by any commitment or deal that we could construct,” Labour’s finance spokesman John McDonnell told BBC radio.
“That’s the truth of it. So we’re now consulting on whether it’s better to go long therefore, rather than to go short. And that decision will be taken.”
Johnson will also face another legal challenge on Thursday against his decision to order the suspension of parliament from next week until October 14 — a move that his critics have called a “coup” and a “constitutional outrage”.
He will briefly turn his attention to foreign affairs on Thursday when he hosts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Vice President Mike Pence.
“Boris knows how to win. Don’t worry about him. He’s going to be okay,” US President Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday.