Brits are facing the prospect of going to the polls just weeks before Christmas after the opposition Labour Party announced Tuesday that it would back Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for a December general election to break the country’s Brexit stalemate.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced that the party would back the call for an early election since he said that the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union at the end of October without a formal withdrawal agreement was “off the table.”
“The Labour Party loves debate, but they also love the end of the debate, and this is the end of the debate and we’re going out there to win,” he said, surrounded by supporters.
Lawmakers will vote later Tuesday on the exact date of the election. Johnson has requested Dec. 12, but other opposition parties have suggested a few days earlier.
Johnson has been calling for a general election for months after it became clear that, with no majority in the House of Commons, he faces an uphill climb to get his agenda through the chamber. His timetable to get his Brexit withdrawal agreement through Parliament was voted down last week. The next scheduled election is not until 2022. He appealed to Corbyn last week to "end this nightmare and provide the country with a solution as soon as we reasonably can."
"If I win a majority in this election, we will ratify the great new deal that I have negotiated, get Brexit done in January and the country will move on," he wrote.
But opposition parties had consistently opposed those calls for an early election, claiming that they would only do so once the chance of a “hard Brexit’ on Oct. 31 was ruled out and a number of votes for an early general election failed in Parliament. Conservatives have claimed that the opposition was instead due to the Tories’ commanding lead in the polls.
Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to lawmakers during an election debate in the House of Commons, London, Monday Oct. 28, 2019. (House of Commons via AP)
But the Oct. 31 deadline was killed off last week after Johnson’s withdrawal agreement was rejected by Parliament, forcing him to request a further delay from E.U. leaders. That request was accepted by E.U. leaders, pushing the scheduled British departure off again until the end of January.
Johnson has also promised not to put his withdrawal agreement again to Parliament before the election in an effort to win support for an early vote.
Johnson’s Tories are ahead in the polls, with an Opinium Poll last week giving them a 16-point lead over Labour, but a number of factors could complicate that. One is the prospect that Brexiteers, unhappy with yet another delay to the implementation of the 2016 vote, could either stay at home or flock to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party — splitting the pro-Brexit vote. At the same time, Labour face a similar challenge from the anti-Brexit and left-of-center Liberal Democrats.
The Conservatives are likely also to be wary of believing in polls showing them ahead. In 2017, when Brits last went to the ballot box, many polls predicted they would be returned with a powerful majority. However the election produced a hung parliament, and then-Prime Minister Theresa May kept hold of power only by allying with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Fox News' Chris Irvine contributed to this report.