U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a major defeat Tuesday evening as conservative members of Parliament against a no-deal Brexit defied their party leader and gave the opposition the chance to block Johnson from forcing a no-deal later this month.
The government lost the vote by 328-301, in a huge blow for the new prime minister, who threatened Tory MPs with deselection ― meaning they wouldn’t be able to run as Conservatives in the next general election ― if they defied him.
Opposition MPs now have the opportunity to pass a new law that stops Johnson from wrenching the U.K. from the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31.
Johnson has been widely criticized over his decision to shut down Parliament for five weeks as the U.K. hurtles towards the Halloween deadline.
Conservative former minister Sir Oliver Letwin, who proposed the emergency Brexit debate, said tomorrow is now “decision time” for those who want to prevent a no-deal.
If passed, the legislation ― which will be tabled by the Labour Party on Wednesday ― would force Johnson to seek a delay to Brexit unless MPs back a deal or no-deal by Oct. 19.
Calling on MPs to back the motion to wrest control of Parliament, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said MPs “cannot stand idly by” and accept the prospect of a no-deal.
“I want to pay tribute to those who have shown the political courage to boldly stand up for what they believe in to bring this debate to the House,” he said. “The bullying and the threats to MPs opposite from their own side is unprecedented.”
Corbyn added that the U.K.’s economy is in a “fragile state,” and argued that now is not the time to impose a no-deal Brexit on the country.
“What we are asking MPs today to do is to rule out playing Russian roulette with this country’s future,” Corbyn said. “With our industry, with out National Health Service, and with people’s jobs and livelihoods all at stake for their trying to retain power.”
He added: “If we don’t act today, we may not get another chance. Whether people voted Leave or Remain, they did not vote to shut down democracy.”
It came on a night of high drama as hundreds of anti-government and anti-Brexit protesters cheered on calls for a general election at a rally in Parliament Square outside Westminster.
Crowds also applauded speakers criticizing austerity policies who addressed them from a small stage erected in the square.
Protesters carried placards bearing anti-Boris Johnson and anti-Brexit slogans, such as “Tories Out,” “No to Boris Johnson” and “Stop Brexit!”
Chants of “Boris out” also echoed around the square next to the Houses of Parliament.