Boris Johnson expelled more than 20 MPs from the Tory party last night after they rebelled against him in the battle to stop a no-deal Brexit.
Parliament last night voted 328-to-301 in favour of a motion giving MPs control of the order paper today, allowing them to propose legislation aimed at forcing Johnson to seek an extension to Article 50 from European Council President Donald Tusk.
Johnson vowed never to accept such an order and instead demanded a general election to determine “who will go to Brussels to sort this out” and negotiate the UK’s departure.
In total, 21 Tories voted against the government, despite being threatened with having the whip removed and being barred from standing as a Conservative candidate.
Among the group of MPs no longer able to sit as Conservatives are former chancellor Philip Hammond, Father of the House Ken Clarke and former justice secretary David Gauke. Also kicked out were a former business secretary, former attorney general and Nicholas Soames – grandson of Winston Churchill.
A source close to the group of rebels last night asked, “what has happened to the Conservative party?”
Earlier in the day, Tory MP Phillip Lee defected to the Liberal Democrats.
Speaking immediately after the vote late last night Johnson, who has repeatedly said he would not delay the process any further, told MPs he would seek a General Election under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.
“Let there be no doubt about the consequences of this vote tonight,” Johnson said. “It means that parliament is on the brink of wrecking any deal we might be able to strike in Brussels… And that would mean more dither, more delay, more confusion.
“I don’t want an election; the public don’t want an election, but if the House votes for this bill tomorrow the public will have to choose who goes to Brussels on 17 October to sort this out and take this country forward,” said Johnson.
“I don’t want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop the negotiations and to compel another pointless delay of Brexit, potentially for years, then that will be the only way to resolve this.”
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made it clear he would not back the Prime Minister’s move to call an election, which needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
“He wants to table a motion for an election,” said Corbyn. “Fine. Get a bill through first, in order to take no deal off the table.” Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson echoed those calls.
Despite the government’s Brexit strategy being thrown into turmoil, chancellor Sajid Javid is still expected to reveal £2bn of new Brexit funding during the spending review today.
The spending review, which is now likely to take the form of a written ministerial statement, will commit the cash for projects linked to Brexit delivery.
This includes funding for the Home Office to support Border Force capability, wider support around UK ports funded by the Department for Transport, and money for the Department for Business, Energy, Innovation and Skills (BEIS) to explore developing the UK’s own Global Navigation Satellite System.
It means more than £8.3bn will have been spent planning for and delivering Brexit since the referendum in 2016.