Boris Johnson calls on MPs not to back 'pointless' Brexit delay

UK prime minister says neither government nor public want election

epa07813308 British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson delivers a statement outside 10 Downing street in Westminster, central London, Britain, 02 September 2019. Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Britain must leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal, prompting a number of British Members of Parliament to unite to try to prevent leaving without an agreement as Parliament assembles on 03 September 2019.  EPA/NEIL HALL

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday pleaded with MPs not to force the country into a general election by backing efforts to delay Brexit and block his pledge to leave the EU on October 31.

Mr Johnson said another “pointless delay” would “chop the legs out from under the UK” in negotiations.

“I don’t want an election, you don’t want an election,” he said, referring to the general public.

Mr Johnson called in his Cabinet for an emergency meeting amid rumours that a general election could be called.

He has threatened to expel MPs from his Conservative Party if they support an opposition-led move to prevent a no-deal Brexit, which critics say could cripple the UK economy.

Mr Johnson said his preference was to negotiate a new deal with Brussels but he insists the UK must leave the EU if a new accord cannot be agreed on by October 31.

The EU has insisted that some of the most controversial elements of the deal, which prevented it gaining the support of the UK Parliament, will not be renegotiated.

Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May had her withdrawal agreement rejected by Parliament three times.

In a Downing Street speech, where protesters shouted "stop the coup" in the background, he said he was “encouraged by the progress we are making” and claimed the “chances of a deal are rising".

Mr Johnson was keen to promote his government's progress, highlighting increased spending on the police, education and health service.

He would require the support of two thirds of Parliament for a general election to take place.

The main opposition leader, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, and the Scottish National Party’s Nicole Sturgeon have said they would support an election if it were before October 31.

Any early election would be held on October 14, a senior government source told Reuters on Monday.

The pound plummeted when reports indicated on Monday that another election could be imminent.

On Tuesday MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit will put forward legislation that could stop the UK leaving the EU on October 31 without a deal.

The bill would give the government time to reach a new withdrawal agreement with Brussels or seek the UK Parliament's consent to leave without a deal.

But if neither condition were met by October 19, Mr Johnson must request a Brexit extension until January 31, 2020.

Prominent Conservative MPs including Rory Stewart, Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve and Justine Greening are among those who plan to vote against the government on Tuesday, Buzzfeed News reported.

"Nobody in the UK voted for a hard Brexit, which is looking increasingly likely to happen," said Anna Kennedy, 46, a protester from London.

"Parliament is no longer able to represent the people."