LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson raised the prospect of a snap election on Tuesday after he suffered a major parliamentary defeat over his Brexit strategy that could delay Britain's exit from the European Union.
Just six weeks after taking office, the Conservative leader was hit by a huge rebellion among his own MPs that leaves him without a working majority in the House of Commons as he looks to take Britain out of the EU on October 31.
Twenty-one Conservatives joined opposition MPs to begin the process of drafting legislation that could stop a "no deal" exit by delaying the departure date by three months.
The prime minister had earlier warned that rebels who voted against him would be expelled from the party, while one other Conservative, former minister Philip Lee, dramatically defected to the pro-European Liberal Democrats.
Addressing braying MPs immediately after the vote, in which the government was defeated 328 votes to 301, Johnson said he had no option but to move to call an early general election.
Shouting to make himself heard, he warned the rebels' proposal would hand control over Brexit to Brussels, causing "more delay and more confusion" in the already tortuous departure process.
"I don't want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop the negotiations and to compel another pointless delay of Brexit, potentially for years, then that will be the only way to resolve this," he said.
Aides had previously said any poll would be held before a crucial EU summit on October 17 and 18.
A vote on holding an election is now expected on Wednesday, although it is by no means certain to succeed.
It requires the support of two-thirds of MPs and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned that while he wanted an election, he wanted to get through the "no deal" plan first. — AFP