After Boris Johnson suffered serial defeats in Parliament this week over, first, his plan to take the UK out of the EU with a “no-deal” Brexit on October 31, and then over his attempt to call a general election, what possible courses of action remain for the embattled British prime minister? While news reports have him trying to trigger an election again on Monday, this option seems ever more implausible as Labour and a “rebel alliance” including dissident Tories, having now tasted victory, are unlikely to suddenly turn accommodating to Johnson or trust any promises he may make about the timing of Brexit. However he isn’t totally out of options, writes Katy Ball in The Guardian, warning that he may still be able to avoid asking the EU for an extension to Brexit as instructed by the rebel alliance in Parliament.
- One potential wheeze — having sympathetic members of the House of Lords filibuster the bill forcing a delay — has apparently been abandoned. But that subtly returns the pressure to opposition Labour leader Corbyn, who has said he will back an election just as soon as the delay bill receives royal assent, Ball notes: if the bill passes on Monday, Corbyn has no excuse for continuing to refuse to trigger a general election.
- Further, Ball notes that Johnson could still trigger an election without the necessary two-thirds vote of “no confidence” in Parliament by passing a simple, one-line law calling for an election on a particular date. However this is also problematic because, having just expelled 21 members of his own party, Johnson may not even be able to summon a simple majority to pass such a law.
- Last but not least, there is an option involving, God save her, the Queen: Johnson could simply refuse to forward the legislation to the monarch’s residence at Balmoral for her signature, or, alternatively, he could resign himself and suggest that the Queen ask Corbyn to implement the delay legislation himself — putting the political onus for continued Brexit delay on Labour instead of the rump Tories.
- The last options are particularly shocking, as they appear to flout long-established precedents and also risk dragging the Queen into politics, threatening the stability and integrity of the constitutional monarchy. But as Ball concludes: “In the topsy-turvy world of Brexit, the unthinkable is now possible.”