–Boris Johnson will make a statement outside No10 this evening amid frantic speculation about a snap election
–Ministers have been holding crisis talks as PM faces defeat at hands of Remainer MPs trying to block No Deal
–Mr. Johnson declared a Commons vote tomorrow aiming to stop No Deal will be treated as a confidence issue
–That would normally mean that if the PM loses the country will go to the polls to elect a new government
–The premier has also threatened to expel Tory MPs if they join the rebel alliance in the showdown tomorrow
–Former Cabinet minister David Gauke says PM is trying to reshape the Tories and trigger a Brexit election
Boris Johnson will make a dramatic statement to the nation from Downing Street tonight amid claims he is set to call a snap election before Brexit if rebel MPs move to block No Deal.
The news comes after the PM upped the ante dramatically by making clear a vote set to be forced by Remainers tomorrow will be treated as a confidence issue.
He has also threatened to remove the whip from rebel Tories who join the effort to stop the UK crashing out on October 31 – effectively ending their careers.
But the government still looks on track to lose the crunch battle – and by declaring it a matter of confidence Mr. Johnson has paved the way for an election to happen before the Halloween deadline. If a poll was formally triggered on Wednesday it could potentially be held as early as October 10, although the following week could be more likely.
As tension mounts on a critical day for the country, Mr. Johnson has been holding a crisis meeting with his Cabinet and privately urging Tory MPs to fall back into line.
However, the threat to eject them from the Conservatives has infuriated many, and he has even been accused of deliberately splitting the party in a bid to reshape it into a new hardline Eurosceptic electoral force.
Former Cabinet minister David Gauke claimed Mr. Johnson actively wanted to lose the showdown so he can ‘purge’ Remainers, while ex-chancellor Philip Hammond demanded to know what he was doing to win concessions from the EU.
Other MPs voiced fury at Remainers such as Amber Rudd and Nicky Morgan who are serving even though they previously spoke out against No Deal. Ms. Rudd has urged Mr. Johnson to ‘hold the party together’ rather than expel rebels.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has egged Mr. Johnson on to call an election despite warnings from his own side that he is walking into an ‘elephant trap’ that could see Labour trounced in an election.
Despite the developing drama, Mr. Johnson found time to meet Carry On actress Barbara Windsor, who is campaigning for better dementia support, in the No10 garden this afternoon. And he has taken possession of a new Jack Russell dog with girlfriend Carrie Symonds.
The growing prospect of an election sent the Pound tumbling, with currency markets nervous about the consequences for the country. Chancellor Sajid Javid summoned City figures to No11 to try to calm anxiety about the situation.
Opposition MPs will tomorrow try to seize control of proceedings in the Commons to try to crash through a law which would make it illegal for the PM to pursue a chaotic split from the EU. Tonight they published the text of the mooted legislation, which orders the premier to ask the EU for a Brexit extension to January 31 – and accept their terms.
As many as 21 Tory MPs are believed to be considering backing the ‘stop No Deal’ plan.
As Westminster descended into turmoil, Boris Johnson was meeting Carry On star Barbara Windsor in the garden at No10
Mr. Johnson’s maverick Brexit chief Dominic Cummings (left) was in Downing Street today as tensions rose. Brexit minister Michael Gove (right) was also on hand as the drama developed
Noisy pro-EU protests were taking place outside the Cabinet Office today as politicians wrangled over the UK’s future
Mr. Johnson seemed in good spirits today despite the raging political crisis as he chatted to Windsor (center) and her husband Scott Mitchell (left)
The process for calling an election is not entirely straightforward for the PM.
Under the law, a premier must secure a two-thirds majority in a Commons vote to trigger an election.
That would require support from the Opposition, and Remainers are unlikely to support the move unless there is a cast-iron guarantee that the poll will take place before the Brexit deadline.
An alternative course could be to pass a new piece of legislation dictating a national vote – which would only require a simple majority. Legally there must be 25 days between a dissolution of Parliament and polling day.
By convention the country votes on a Thursday, making October 10, 17 and 24 favorites. However, there is an EU summit on October 17 which might prove an obstacle.
In an extraordinary blue-on-blue attack today, Mr. Gauke said he believed Mr. Johnson was ‘goading’ Conservative MPs to vote against him.
He complained that No10 had adopted a ‘particularly confrontational approach’ in the hope that the government will ‘lose this week and then seek a general election’. He suggested the aim was to split the Tories, removing more moderate MPs so it can become a more populist party.
Mr. Gauke is one of a number of former ministers who are expected to side with opposition MPs when it comes to the crunch. Mr. Hammond could also join the revolt, and wrote to the premier tonight demanding more information on how he hopes to strike a deal with the EU.
The intentions of Theresa May – who was spotted at Westminster today – are unclear.
Mr. Gauke said he was yet to be contacted by whips spelling out the consequences of what will happen if he votes in favor of stopping No Deal as he said Downing Street’s strategy was clear.
He told the BBC: ‘It’s obviously a particularly confrontational approach and, I think, designed, frankly, to realign the Conservative Party, to transform the Conservative Party very much in the direction of a Brexit party.
‘I don’t think there seems to be a huge effort to persuade people to support the Government this week. I think they seem to be quite prepared for there to be a rebellion then to purge those who support the rebellion from the party.
‘Normally there would be plenty of cajoling. One would have friends from the Cabinet phoning up and saying ‘Come on, why don’t you support the Government, give them a bit more time?’
‘None of that is happening. The usual operation isn’t particularly happening. It does seem to me they are almost goading people into voting against the Government.
‘Because I think the strategy, to be honest, is to lose this week and then seek a general election, having removed those of us who are not against Brexit, not against leaving the European Union, but believe we should do so with a deal.’
Ms. Rudd also waded into the argument, telling the Spectator in an interview: ‘I have made my views clear to the Prime Minister that we should not be a party that is trying to remove from our party two former chancellors, a number of ex-cabinet ministers, that the way to hold our party together and to get a deal is to bring them onside.’
Jeremy Corbyn today eased the path for Mr. Johnson should he go for a poll after losing the No Deal battle, saying that Labour would support letting the ‘people decide’.
The intervention, in a speech in Salford, came despite Tony Blair pleading with Mr. Corbyn not to fall into the ‘elephant trap’ of backing a snap poll.
A Government source said: ‘The PM is hosting all Tory MPs at No10 this evening.
‘He is taking the opportunity to see cabinet as well. They will discuss Govt’s response to MPs seeking to take control of the legislative agenda away from Govt and handing it to the opposition and Corbyn without the consent of the people.
‘The view is that tomorrow’s possible vote is an expression of confidence in Govt’s negotiating position to secure a deal and will be treated as such.’
A handful of would-be Tory rebels had been due to meet with Mr. Johnson for ‘peace talks’ today but the PM subsequently pulled out, publicly blaming a diary clash but insiders said he felt there was no point speaking to them.
Instead of meeting the group of Remainer MPs, Mr. Johnson had offered to hold a one-on-one meeting with Philip Hammond – but in a further dramatic development, sources said the former Chancellor would refuse to meet the PM due to the ‘discourteous’ manner in which the PM had acted.
Mr. Johnson and his party whips agreed tough tactics yesterday which will see Tory MPs lose the whip if they fail to vote with the government.
Mr. Gauke, Mr. Hammond and Rory Stewart are three of the 21 Tory MPs believed to be considering supporting the anti-No Deal law which could leave the PM’s ‘do or die’ departure promise in tatters.
Meanwhile, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, today became the second Cabinet minister after Michael Gove to suggest that the government could ignore any anti-No Deal legislation passed by MPs this week.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (left) and housing minister Esthr McVey were in No10 for a Cabinet meeting tonight
Mr. Johnson and girlfriend Carrie Symonds took possession of a new Jack Russell dog today amid the swirling crisis
Theresa May was spotted going in for drinks in Downing Street tonight but it is unclear how she intends to vote in the Brexit showdown tomorrow
Dominic Raab (left) was spotted in Whitehall as the political maneuvering raged. Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd was also in No10 tonight for the Cabinet meeting
Sources in the rebel camp said Mr. Johnson’s decision to cancel talks suggested no progress had been made with Brussels.
‘People were going in seeking proof of genuine attempts to get a deal,’ they said.
‘The fact it has been canceled at short notice suggests there isn’t a proper negotiation going on. The next point of engagement will be in the voting lobbies.’
A source in the Tory whips office last night confirmed that the order had gone out that MPs who rebel would be expelled from the parliamentary party.
The insider said: ‘The whips are telling Conservative MPs today a very simple message – if they fail to vote with the Government on Tuesday they will be destroying the Government’s negotiating position and handing control of Parliament to Jeremy Corbyn.
‘Any Conservative MP who does this will have the whip withdrawn and will not stand as a Conservative candidate in an election.’
Allies of Mr. Johnson believe the prospect of immediate expulsion could persuade many of the rebels to back down.
However, a source in the rebel camp said Mr. Johnson’s deselection threat smacked of ‘sheer hypocrisy’.
The source added: ‘This is about the national interest, and we’ve moved beyond the point where threats will persuade people to abandon their principles.’
The legislation being drawn up by the Remainers is expected to call for a three-month extension to the Brexit date – potentially moving it to January 31.
The primary aim of the so-called European Union (Withdrawal) (No.6) Bill 2019 is to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal on October 31.
But it goes much further and demands the PM ask the EU for a Brexit delay to January 31, 2020, in the event Britain and Brussels are unable to agree on a new deal at an EU Council meeting on October 17.
The Bill states that if the EU does agree to the request for an extension the PM must immediately accept the offer.
If the EU propose a different extension date the PM must accept it within two days – unless it is rejected by the House of Commons.
The Bill does say that the UK can leave the bloc without a deal but only if MPs explicitly vote in favor of such an outcome.
Mr. Gove sparked outrage yesterday after he suggested the government could ignore any anti-No Deal law.
He told the BBC: ‘Let’s see what the legislation says.
‘You’re asking me about a pig in a poke. And I will wait to see what legislation the opposition may try to bring forward.’
Mr. Williamson became the second Cabinet minister to hint that such a law could be disregarded as he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain program this morning: ‘It’s quite normal for the government to take the time to look at the legislation and see how it impacts in terms of the negotiations.
‘Every government adheres to the law.’
Mr. Williamson, a former chief whip, also insisted that sacking Tory rebels was the right approach to take.
‘Anyone who is voting against the government is in a position where they are voting to undermine the prime minister’s negotiating hand,’ he said.
‘They should think very seriously about that and the consequences.
‘I think that if they (the government) take the view that it is serious enough, that it is undermining the nation’s position and the prime minister’s position if that is their decision it would be the right decision. If that is what is necessary.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn held a shadow cabinet meeting in Manchester today as he finalised tactics for the Brexit clash
Chancellor Sajid Javid summoned City figures including Goldman Sachs vice chairman Richard Gnodde (right) and Barclays chief executive Jes Staley (second right) to try to calm nerves about the impact of Brexit
Downing Street said Mr. Williamson was correct in saying that ‘every government adheres to the law’ but against stressed the need to see the legislation.
There are fears in the government that the rebels could draft a defective piece of legislation which does not actually achieve their stated goals.
The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘We haven’t seen what has been put forward yet. The people who are promoting it have not been willing to share that.’
Meanwhile, former Conservative minister Nick Boles today claimed the Tory party is dead, with the ‘hard right’ taking over.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today program if the party was finished, the independent MP said: ‘Yes. The hard right has taken over the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party has fallen prey to an almost religious obsession with the hardest form of Brexit.’
Mr. Boles said Brexit is ‘not necessarily’ a hard-right move but that ‘foisting’ a No Deal departure on the UK is.
He said efforts to legislate to prevent such a departure was not an attempt to ‘sneak’ a second referendum and took aim at Conservatives who have backed down on their former warnings about a No Deal to get jobs in Mr. Johnson’s government.
‘We’ve seen that there are some people in the Conservative Party who are willing to sell their principles at a pretty low price in exchange for a job in the Cabinet despite what they’ve said previously about a no-deal Brexit,’ he said.
Mr. Johnson has warned his MPs they face a ‘fundamental choice’ between his ambitious agenda, including pumping billions of pounds into public services, or the hard-left Labour leader.
As the rhetoric ramped up, Mr. Johnson told the Sunday Times: ‘I just say to everybody in the country, including everyone in parliament, the fundamental choice is this: are you going to side with Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to cancel the referendum?’
‘Are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people – and plunge this country into chaos.’
Former Chancellor Philip Hammond sent a letter to the PM demanding answers on what he is doing to get a deal with the EU. Mr. Gauke said Mr. Johnson was deliberately trying to split the Tories and turn it into a populist electoral force