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Boris Johnson loses majority in the House of Commons after Tory defection

Image credit: PA

Boris Johnson loses majority in the House of Commons after Tory defection

Boris Johnson has lost his majority in the House of Commons after a Conservative MP joined the Liberal Democrats.

Phillip Lee, the MP for Bracknell, crossed the floor just as MPs asked the Speaker for an emergency debate which would allow them to bring forward a bill to block a no-deal Brexit.

If as expected the Commons Speaker John Bercow allows the debate, the bill will seek to force the prime minister to ask for a delay to Brexit until the end of January, unless MPs vote for a no-deal Brexit or approve a Brexit deal by October 19.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Boris Johnson described the planned legislation as a “surrender bill”, saying that attempts to block a no-deal Brexit undermined the government’s negotiating position.

Downing Street has made clear that if the bill succeeds, Johnson will seek a general election on October 14. He requires the backing of two thirds of MPs to call an election.

Earlier, the former Chancellor Philip Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there were in his view enough Tory MPs prepared to back the no-deal bill for it to pass in parliament, in spite of the “aggressive operation” against them by Downing Street.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said he would be “delighted” to have an election, which Labour has been demanding for months. Concern has grown among Labour MPs however that if parliament gave its backing to an election in principle, Johnson could change the date of the election to take place after October 31, the day the UK is due to leave the EU. Corbyn confirmed the party has asked for legal advice on the matter.

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