The embattled British prime minister demanded a “day of reckoning with the voters” when he seemingly challenged opposition lawmakers take down his government with a no-confidence vote amid the tumultuous Brexit negotiations that have split lawmakers.
Boris Johnson said he welcomed a no-confidence motion from the opposition – going as far as saying it could be held Thursday.
“I say it is time to get Brexit done,” he said. “I think the people of this country have had enough. This Parliament must either stand aside … or bring a vote of confidence and finally face a day of reckoning with the voters.”
In this handout photo provided by the House of Commons, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in Parliament in London, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (House of Commons via AP)
It was his first remarks to the legislature since the Supreme Court’s decision that deemed Johnson’s suspension of Parliament earlier this month to be illegal.
Johnson, who had just returned from a shortened trip from the U.N. General Assembly in New York, accused opposition lawmakers of having an “obsessive desire” to overrule Brexit referendum instead of honoring it.
“They don’t care if another year or more is wasted in arguing about a referendum,” he claimed. “All that matters is an obsessive desire to overrule the referendum result while we want to take out country up a gear.”
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Johnson's five-week prorogation — or suspension of Parliament – was “void and of no effect.” The high court said Johnson’s government, instead, shut down the legislature in an effort to squelch debate on Britain’s divorce from the EU, set for Oct. 31.
After the ruling, Johnson said he “strongly” disagreed with the court’s decision – a sentiment emphasized Wednesday in front of the House of Commons.
“I thought the court was wrong to pronounce on what is essentially a political question at a time of great national controversy,” he said.
In response, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, rejected Johnson’s taunting demand for a no-confidence vote and called the prime minister’s remarks “ten minutes of bluster” that “should be quashed.”
In this handout photo provided by the House of Commons, Britain’s Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn looks on in Parliament in London, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (House of Commons via AP)
“This government is failing the people of Britain and the people of Britain know it,” he claimed before adding: “After yesterday’s ruling, the prime minister should have done the honorable thing and resigned. Yet here he is, forced back to this house … with no shred of remorse or humility or, of course, no substance whatsoever.”
Corbyn said he won’t support a new election unless a no-deal Brexit is ruled out. Instead, he said, Johnson should secure a delay to Brexit – scheduled for Oct. 21 – and “then let’s have an election.”
In this handout photo provided by the House of Commons, opposition MP’s look on as Britain’s General Attorney Geoffrey Cox speaks in Parliament in London, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (House of Commons via AP)
Johnson wants to hold an election in hope of breaking the stalemate over Brexit that has left Britain's departure in limbo. If the government lost a no-confidence vote, a two-week period would be triggered in which Johnson or another lawmaker could try to form a new government and win a subsequent confidence vote. If that failed, there would be an election.
Earlier this month, British lawmakers twice rejected a call for a snap poll. Opposition lawmakers said they won’t trigger an election until the risk of crashing out of the European Union next month without a divorce deal has been eliminated.
The heated exchange came just hours after British Attorney General Geoffrey Cox sparked furor in the House of Commons when he claimed that Parliament is “dead” and that lawmakers have “no moral right to sit on these green benches.”
Cox’s baritone boomed across the House of Commons as he defended the advice he gave the prime minister backing the suspension, saying the government acted in “good faith.” He also aggressively attacked lawmakers for being “too cowardly” to vote for a no-confidence motion in Johnson’s government.
“This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit. It has no moral right to sit on these green benches,” Cox said, adding that the legislature was a “disgrace.”
In this handout photo provided by the House of Commons, Britain’s General Attorney Geoffrey Cox speaks in Parliament in London, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (Jessica Taylor/House of Commons via AP)
“This parliament should have the courage to face the electorate, but it won’t because so many of them are really all about preventing us from leaving the European Union. But the time is coming. The time is coming, Mr. Speaker, when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.