LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday lost his working majority in parliament with the dramatic defection of a party member ahead of a showdown with MPs over Brexit that could lead to an early general election.
In a heated parliamentary session, Johnson condemned a plan by lawmakers to block his Brexit strategy as “surrender” and said it would undermine his intention to negotiate a new divorce deal with the EU.
Opposition MPs and rebel members of his Conservative party are planning to vote for delaying beyond October 31 if he cannot agree exit terms with Brussels.
While Johnson was making his statement, Conservative MP Phillip Lee was seen crossing the floor of the Commons to sit with the pro-European Liberal Democrats.
Lee said in his resignation letter that the Conservative Party “has become infected with the twin diseases of populism and English nationalism” as a result of Brexit.
MPs will first try to make room in the parliamentary agenda for a debate of the bill by putting forward a motion set to be voted on by MPs on Tuesday evening.
If they succeed, they will introduce their bill on Wednesday and seek to get it through before parliament is suspended next week.
Johnson s aides have warned that defeat in a first vote in the House of Commons expected at 2000 GMT on Tuesday would force him to call a snap election on October 14.
Johnson would need the support of the main opposition Labour party to call a snap poll, as the law requires the backing of two-thirds of MPs.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Johnson was not really intending to do a deal with Brussels and instead planned to crash Britain out of the EU.
“His is a government with no mandate, no morals and, as of today, no majority,” he said.