MPs have once again rejected Boris Johnson’s demand for a snap general election next month.
In late-night proceedings, the House of Commons voted by 293 to 46 in favour of the prime minister’s motion calling for an early election on 15 October.
However, under law, Mr Johnson required the support of 434 MPs – two-thirds of all 650 – in order to send the country to the polls.
His failure to reach the threshold, due to the united efforts of opposition parties to thwart his request, means there will now be no general election before the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU on 31 October.
After the defeat, the sixth he has suffered in the Commons since becoming prime minister, Mr Johnson claimed the House of Commons could not choose on a way forward with Brexit and “will not let anyone else choose”.
He said: “It resolves only to be irresolute, decides only to be undecided, determined to dither, adamant for drift.
“While the opposition run from their duty to answer to those who put us here, they cannot hide forever.
“The moment will come when the people will finally get their chance to deliver their verdict on how faithfully this House executed their wishes.
“And I am determined that they will see that it was this government that was on their side.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier told MPs his party are “eager” for an election but “are not prepared to inflict the disaster of a no-deal on our communities, our jobs, our services, or indeed our rights”.
Speaking to Sky News Sunrise, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said whether the party backs a November election “will depend very much on what the prime minister does from here on in”.
Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, told MPs her party would campaign to revoke Article 50 – and cancel Brexit – in a general election.
She accused the prime minister treating Brexit like “a game” with his call for an election, adding: “This is not a student debating society, this is about the national interest – about being sure we avoid the risk of avoiding a no-deal Brexit.”
The result, which came in the early hours of Tuesday morning, was always likely to be a formality following an agreement between opposition parties not to back a general election until a no-deal Brexit on 31 October had been avoided.
It capped a miserable day in the Commons for the prime minister, who also saw MPs vote to force the government to release documents related to its Operation Yellowhammer preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
The motion, pushed by former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve and backed by a majority of MPs, also sought to compel the release of private messages – including those on WhatsApp and Facebook – between key government aides over the suspension of parliament.
It follows accusations that ministers had ordered the prorogation of parliament in order to avoid scrutiny of its Brexit strategy.
The order to publish the documents and messages is not legally binding, but could lead to the government being found in contempt of parliament if they refuse to comply.
Ministers were considering their response on Monday night, but a government spokesperson criticised the scope of the information requested as “disproportionate and unprecedented”.
The evening also saw Mr Corbyn force an emergency debate on ministers’ obligation to comply with the law over Brexit.
Under legislation passed by opposition MPs and Tory rebels last week, the prime minister will be compelled to request a further three-month delay to Brexit from the EU if he fails to strike a divorce deal with the bloc by 19 October.
However, Mr Johnson has repeatedly promised the UK will leave the EU on Halloween – with or without a deal.
This has prompted speculation the government could attempt to disregard the legislation and – although Downing Street stated on Monday the government’s commitment to obeying the law – the prime minister reiterated his stance that he will not ask for an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period.
At the end of Commons proceedings in the early hours of Tuesday, parliament was suspended (prorogued) for five weeks and will not return until 14 October.
During the ceremony, some opposition MPs showed their anger at parliament being prorogued by holding up signs next to the Speaker’s chair emblazoned with the word “silenced”.
One even attempted to prevent the Speaker John Bercow leaving the Commons to go to the Lords’ chamber to hear the Royal Assent for the suspension of parliament.
Labour MPs show their objection to the suspending of parliament Pic: Stephen Morgan MP
MPs had only sat in the Commons for four days since their six-week summer break, but will now be sent away from Westminster again until little more than a fortnight before the Brexit deadline.
The government, who controversially ordered the suspension of parliament, will set out their new legislative agenda when a new parliamentary session begins with a Queen’s Speech.
Mr Johnson now appears stuck between his failure to force an election and the legislation – which was formally approved by the Queen on Monday – aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
Despite this, his senior adviser Dominic Cummings insisted on Tuesday morning that Britain would still be leaving the EU on that date.
When asked what his next move on Brexit would be, Mr Cummings told Reuters: “You guys should get outside London and go to talk to people who are not rich remainers.”
Mr Johnson had begun his day on Monday by holding talks with Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin.
At a joint news conference, the prime minister described himself as “absolutely undaunted” by events at Westminster and stressed his belief that a new Brexit deal could be agreed with the EU by the time a Brussels summit takes place on 17 and 18 October.
He added a no-deal Brexit would represent a “failure of statecraft” by all concerned.
But Mr Varadkar said that while Ireland was open to alternative solutions to the Irish border backstop – which Mr Johnson wants scrapped from the UK’s current withdrawal agreement – they had yet to see any “legally workable” proposals from the UK.
The backstop is aimed at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland but is opposed by many for leaving either Northern Ireland or the whole UK aligned closely to EU rules, for an indefinite period, without any influence.
Credit: Greg Heffer