Boris Johnson stands up to Opposition MPs, snap election on cards

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson has again promised to ensure Britain leaves the European Union by its current deadline, with an election reportedly planned if MPs block a no-deal Brexit.

On Tuesday (NZ Time), a Bill was proposed by Labour MP Hilary Benn designed to rule out a no-deal Brexit on October 31. It states that by October 19, Prime Minister Johnson must either have a withdrawal agreement passed, have MPs pass a motion agreeing to a no-deal Brexit, or write to the European Union requesting an extension to Brexit to January 31, 2020.

The Bill could be introduced in Parliament on Wednesday, only days before Parliament is suspended. It has the support of several rebel Conservative MPs who argue a no-deal Brexit would be reckless and provides little certainty for Britain's economic future.

Johnson responded to the Bill with a surprise speech outside 10 Downing St, in which he again promised that Britain would leave the EU on October 31 "no ifs, no buts". 

"MPs should vote with the government against [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn's pointless delay," he said.

"I want everybody to know there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay. We are leaving on 31 October - no ifs or buts.

"We will not accept any attempt to go back on our promises or scrub that referendum."

Some have seen Johnson's speech as a veiled threat that he could call a snap election.

Government sources have told several British media outlets, including The Guardian and the Financial Times, that an election is planned for October 14 if the Benn Bill passes on Wednesday. Johnson would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament to secure an election, but that would likely be backed by the Opposition.

The election would happen before October 31 with Johnson hoping to rid his party of rebel MPs who have reportedly been told they won't be selected again for the party if they vote to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

Replacing rebel Tory MPs with loyalists could be how Johnson gets Britain out on October 31, but it's not his preferred option - at least according to what he said publicly on Tuesday.

"Let our negotiators get on with their work. Without that sword of Damocles over their necks. And without an election, which I don't want and you don't want."

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech at 10 Downing Street on September 2, 2019 in London, England. Boris Johnson spoke to the public from Downing Street saying he hoped that MPs would vote with the government in not taking "No Deal" off the Brexit negotiating table with the EU. He said we are leaving the EU on 31st October "no ifs or buts". (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty.

Johnson also said on Tuesday that in the last few weeks, the chance of him negotiating a new withdrawal agreement with the European Union has risen.

"They can see that we want a deal. They can see that we have a clear vision for our future relationship with the EU - something that has perhaps not always been the case. And they can see that we are utterly determined to strengthen out position by getting ready to come out regardless, come what may," he said.

"But if there is one thing that can hold us back in these talks it is the sense in Brussels that MPs may find some way to cancel the referendum."

Johnson's critics quickly responded to his speech.

"Plainly obvious from that statement that Johnson has no plan to get a deal. If MPs blink tomorrow, he will drive the UK off the no deal cliff on 31 October. He must not get away with it," said Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

"More bluster from Boris Johnson outside Number 10," said Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

No-deal Brexit effect on NZ


A no-deal Brexit would create significant uncertainty for Kiwi exporters. The UK is one of New Zealand's largest export markets, meaning Brexit will have massive implications for Aotearoa.

While a transition period would be enacted if the UK left the EU with a deal, allowing countries to establish new agreements with the UK and EU, a no-deal situation would have sudden effect.

"A no-deal Brexit would likely increase the costs and procurement times of New Zealand exports, reducing demand for these products," said IBISWorld senior industry analyst Liam Harrison in April.

"In event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK reverts to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules regarding trade, which would force the UK to place tariffs and quotas on certain products."

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand does have several agreements and continuity arrangements in place to ensure continuity in some trading conditions between New Zealand and the UK, especially in the case of a no-deal exit.

But New Zealand Trade Enterprise has also released information on how businesses can prepare themselves for when Brexit arrives.