Boris Johnson was humiliated by Parliament for a second day running, with his do-or-die Brexit strategy derailed and even his plan for a general election rejected. But having bet everything on getting Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31, he can’t back down.
The U.K. prime minister has lost all authority in the House of Commons and must find a way to win its support for an election so he can get a shot at commanding a majority. If he can’t, he will be trapped in office, compelled by law to request a further delay to Brexit.
Johnson is the third Conservative leader to be undermined by the intractable task of delivering Brexit more than three years after the fateful 2016 referendum. Unlike his two predecessors, though, he was a key architect in persuading the British public to vote for it.
That decision was meant to settle the European question in British politics that had been lurking for decades. Instead, it’s torn the Tories apart and left a nation that was once the benchmark for stability and pragmatism on the cusp of a third election in just over four years. There’s also no guarantee it will break the deadlock that’s paralyzed a country of almost 70 million people.
As European Union leaders monitored events, the chaos that has engulfed the U.K. establishment was brought to life in a charged House of Commons. Earlier in the day, the grandson of Winston Churchill was close to tears in an emotional farewell to his colleagues after getting thrown out of the party for siding against Johnson. He had been a Tory member of Parliament for 37 years.
And the mood only got worse as the hours wore on. In a dramatic series of evening votes on Wednesday, members of Parliament moved to stop Johnson forcing the U.K. out of the bloc without a deal next month, effectively wrecking his mission to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31.
The bill was then sent to the House of Lords and will return to the Commons by Friday evening, the Press Association reported, after an earlier plan to get unelected peers to filibuster was dropped.