New Delhi: In what is seen as an extreme move by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, rebel MPs in his Conservative Party have been warned that they will be expelled if they go ahead with their plans to join the opposition in passing the legislation this week to stop a no-deal Brexit.
The move comes a day before the British parliament is due to begin a crucial session in which Brexit is set to dominate.
The decision was taken at a meeting of Johnson’s senior colleagues and advisors over the weekend. Johnson has also cancelled a meeting scheduled for Monday with prominent supporters of that legislation, which include a number of former ministers, including Philip Hammond, the Finance Minister under Theresa May.
Rebel MPs have been warned that if they vote against the government, they will be defying the party whip which means they’ll be thrown out of the party. Unlike India, Britain doesn’t have an anti-defection law and members of parliament have been defying the party whip.
But crucially, these rebels have also been threatened with de-selection. In other words, they will be denied the Conservative Party ticket in the next election. This is a risky move for them as well as for Johnson. He has a tiny majority in the parliament and there’s no guarantee the Conservative Party will return to power if there’s an election soon.
But this also looks like his strategy, to put pressure on the rebels. An early election is expected anyway, it could be as a result of a no-confidence motion in the parliament or soon after a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson has made it clear that he would like Britain to leave the European Union (EU) at the end of October with or without a deal. He insists that he’s trying for a deal but the EU has said that he has not given any credible proposal so far and that they’re preparing for a no-deal Brexit.
The Conservative Party is largely pro-Brexit and many members won’t mind even a no-deal Brexit. That’s why Johnson was elected two months ago as the party leader. He provoked a lot of anger among his opponents last month when he decided to suspend the parliament, a move seen as a ploy to prevent it from passing a law to stop a no-deal Brexit.
But the opposition and his party rebels were plotting to pass such a law on the first day of the session itself, prompting Johnson to issue the latest warning to the rebels. But some of these MPs, who’re from areas where people voted to remain in the European Union at the Brexit referendum in 2016, are reported to be prepared to ignore the warning and even the threat of deselection.
Britain currently has a fixed-term parliament law which means a no-confidence vote doesn’t necessarily result in fresh election. That’s why opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been trying to convince other parties opposed to a no-deal Brexit and the Tory rebels to support him in forming a government if Johnson’s dispensation collapses.
But so far he has not been able to convince them, mainly because the MPs who are opposed to leaving the EU don’t trust him. He is also hated widely in the Tory heartland, so MPs from those areas wont’ risk supporting Corbyn.
The new session of the parliament was expected to be used by a group of Muslim MPs to raise the issue of the abrogation of Article 370 in India and the related developments in Kashmir. Corbyn has their support but they will be disappointed as Brexit has overtaken everything.
The issue may still be raised but it’s unlikely to generate the kind of debate Pakistan and its supporters in the British parliament were expecting.