London — Prime Minister Boris Johnson is threatening to expel from the party any fellow Conservative lawmakers who try to stand in the way of his plans to pull Britain out of the European Union on October 31, with or without a divorce agreement in place. Johnson has been in office for just several months, but believes he has a mandate to deliver Brexit on any terms — even if it means a potentially damaging “no deal” break-up.
Many British lawmakers, including from Johnson’s own Conservative Party, believe a no-deal Brexit would be calamitous for the U.K. As Parliament reconvenes on Tuesday after the summer recess, those opposed to a no-deal exit will try to block that outcome via legal action, legislation or a no-confidence vote in Johnson’s government that, if successful, would force a new national election and could unseat him.Johnson has been lambasted as undemocratic for his bold move last week to shrink the remaining term of Parliament down to just a handful of days by having the legislature suspended from early next week. It effectively gives Members of Parliament just a week to try and thwart his plans. Any successful bid to do so — most likely a no-confidence vote or legislation to block a no-deal exit — will rely on Conservative “rebels” going against Johnson.
Rebels rousingOn Monday, British news outlets said Conservative whips, the lawmakers tasked with maintaining party discipline, had warned the rebels that if they vote against Johnson they will be suspended from the party.”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,” David Gauke, a Conservative former Justice Secretary, told CBS News partner network BBC News on Monday.At least some of the Conservative rebels appear ready to take the risk of excommunication from their party.Buzzfeed reported Monday that a group of Conservatives is working with opposition lawmakers on legislation that would force Johnson to seek an extension from the EU on the October 31 Brexit deadline if no deal is agreed by a set date before then. Buzzfeed said the bill was expected to be put forth for a vote within just hours of Parliament reconvening on Tuesday.That report was unconfirmed, as were rumors that Johnson might call a snap national election himself, essentially expecting to notch a clear victory for his party and thus boost his perceived mandate to steer the country out of the EU.”Project fear,” or fear well-founded?Economists, including the government’s own, have warned that leaving the European Union without a deal in place with the bloc could severely damage the U.K. economy, lead to shortages of fresh foods and medicines and long delays for people and goods at ports of entry.Johnson’s government dismisses that as “project fear,” and insists the country is well prepared to crash out of the EU.More ideologically, those who oppose leaving the EU without an agreement argue that the British public wasn’t given an honest assessment of its choice in the run-up to the Brexit referendum of 2016. The pro-Brexit campaign, which Johnson himself led, always insisted that agreeing the terms of a divorce with the EU would be a simple task. It has proved to be anything but.