British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has rejected calls to resign in the face of a series of political setbacks and has renewed his push for a general election as a way to resolve the Brexit impasse.
A day after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Johnson’s move to prorogue Parliament until Oct. 14 was unlawful, MPs returned to the House of Commons Wednesday for a raucous debate, with many calling on the Prime Minister to resign.
“Will the Prime Minister end this dictatorship? Will you now resign?” asked Ian Blackford, a Scottish National Party MP.
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said that in the wake of the court’s unanimous decision, Mr. Johnson “should have done the reasonable thing and resigned.”
Mr. Johnson showed no remorse for his actions and instead went on the offensive, challenging the opposition to trigger an election. “This Parliament must either stand aside and get Brexit done or bring a vote of no confidence and finally face the voters,” he told MPs. "I think the people of this country have had enough.”
That did little to calm opposition MPs who shouted “Resign” and "Shame” when Mr. Johnson tried to speak. “The Prime Minister’s language is violent, and his government is dysfunctional,” Labour MP Alison McGovern said.
Mr. Johnson has been backed into a corner by parliamentarians over his plan to pull Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 – no matter what. His minority government has lost every vote in the House of Commons and has become powerless through the defection of two Conservative MPs. A majority of MPs have also passed a law that requires Mr. Johnson to seek an extension to the deadline if he hasn’t struck a withdrawal agreement with the EU by Oct. 19. He has insisted he won’t delay Brexit under any circumstance, despite the law.
He remained defiant Wednesday and portrayed himself as standing with the people against the establishment. ”The people of this country can see clearly what is going on," he told MPs. Parliament "does not want to honour its promises of honouring the [2016 Brexit] referendum. This Parliament will keep delaying, it will keep sabotaging the negotiations.”
Opinion polls show Mr. Johnson’s argument is winning over voters who have grown tired of the Brexit saga. Support for the Conservatives has surged since he took over as party leader and Prime Minister in July.
The favourable polls have encouraged him to push for a snap election. Under the country’s fixed-term law, an election isn’t due until May 5, 2022, and Mr. Johnson needs the support of two-thirds of MPs to move that date forward. He has tried twice to trigger a snap election, but the opposition refused to consent. Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox indicated Wednesday that the government will try once more this week.
Mr. Corbyn said the Labour Party will only agree to an election after a no-deal Brexit has been ruled out. “It’s very simple: If you want an election, get an extension and let’s have an election,” he said during Wednesday’s debate. The opposition parties could introduce a motion of non-confidence, but Mr. Corbyn has held off over concerns the election campaign would straddle the Oct. 31 deadline, increasing the chance of a no-deal departure.
Mr. Johnson has said he still wants to strike a deal with the EU, but he has demanded changes to the Irish backstop, a safety net that would ensure the Irish border remains open after Brexit. However, EU leaders have said that so far Mr. Johnson has not produced any workable alternatives.