Emergency cabinet meeting held in London over Brexit

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LONDON, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson summoned his cabinet ministers for an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday afternoon at a time when Tory rebels are trying to force him to seek a three-month extension of Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU).

Rebel Tory members of parliament would force the prime minister to seek a three-month extension of Brexit until Jan. 31, 2020, if there is no new deal passed by the parliament or if the parliament has agreed to no deal by Oct. 19, senior sources were quoted as saying by media reports here.

Johnson vowed to take his country out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal, but his actions since taking office raised the risk of Britain’s crashing out of the EU without an agreement.

EMERGENCY CABINET MEETING

The emergency cabinet meeting was called before the prime minister is expected to address Conservative members of parliament at a 10 Downing Street drinks reception.

The move came as opposition leaders and some Tories prepared to force through legislation compelling the British government to secure another delay if there was no agreement with the EU on how to leave the regional bloc.

Johnson is reported in the process of considering seeking a possible early general election if members of parliament wanting to block a no-deal Brexit defeat the government this week.

“Live discussions” are going on in No 10 about asking Parliament to approve a snap poll, according to the BBC.

The political division is getting wider and wider in the country over how to leave the EU as Westminster was gripped Monday with growing talk of a general election.

The prime minister was accused of planning a “purge” of moderate Conservative members of parliament to force through his Brexit plans.

Conservative whips threatened to axe backbenchers from the parliamentary party and bar them from standing as Tories in any election if they back a new Bill this week that aims to stop a potentially catastrophic crash-out from the EU.

The prime minister abruptly ripped up plans for a meeting with a group of rebellious former ministers, including Philip Hammond and David Gauke in what had been billed as a last-ditch effort to limit support for the action in parliament.

Hammond, the chancellor under former Prime Minister Theresa May, was offered a one-to-one meeting with the prime minister, which he declined, calling it “discourteous” to cancel the group meeting.

The prime minister raised the stakes against Tory rebels by threatening to remove the whip from any who vote to block a no-deal Brexit and ban them from standing as a Conservative candidate at the next election.

RISING HOSTILITY

The backbench rebels, spearheaded by the Tory former officials Gauke and Hammond and the backbenchers Oliver Letwin and Dominic Grieve, are expected to attempt to take control of the House of Commons agenda on Tuesday, when parliament returns from the summer recess.

Hostility escalated in the British politics as opposition to a no-deal Brexit is getting stronger and stronger.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour,on Monday pledged to work with members of parliament across parliament to prevent no deal, which he said the government had no mandate for, and said his party was prepared to form a temporary caretaker administration.

“First we must come together to stop no deal — this week could be our last chance,” Corbyn said in his keynote speech in Salford, Greater Manchester.

“We are working with other parties to do everything necessary to pull our country back from the brink,” he said. “Then we need a general election.”

“When a government finds itself without a majority, the solution is not to undermine democracy — the solution is to let the people decide, and call a general election,” said the opposition leader.

“A general election is the democratic way forward, to give the people the choice between two very different directions for our country,” he added.

In a signed letter to the prime minister on Monday, Hammond demanded what, exactly, his plans to negotiate the terms of Brexit with the EU really are.

Also on Monday afternoon, Downing Street would not rule out the prime minister seeking to trigger a general election very soon, with speculation escalating after it emerged that Johnson had invited all Tory members of parliament to No 10 on Monday evening following an emergency cabinet meeting.

Asked if the prime minister was going to hold an election, his official spokesman said: “He’s been asked this on many occasions and his answer has been he doesn’t want there to be an election.”

“He believes what the public wants is for him to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31 and that is what he’s entirely focused upon,” the spokesman said.

Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, two-thirds of members of parliament must back an election for one to go ahead.

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