A December general election is all but certain in the U.K. after Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn announced he would back a snap vote.
The Labour Opposition leader said on Tuesday he would vote for a pre-Christmas showdown with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives now that a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 was “off the table.”
Corbyn’s remarks came only hours before Prime Minister Johnson was set to ask U.K. lawmakers for a fourth time to approve an early election, saying voters must have the chance to break the Brexit deadlock in British Parliament.
“We’re launching the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to build a country for the many, not the few. It’s time,” Corbyn said.
Johnson will introduce a short bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday to trigger an election. Labour’s shadow cabinet met Tuesday morning to decide whether or not to back the move.
There is still wrangling over the exact date of the election. The government wants it to be held on Dec. 12. But the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) and the Scottish National Party (SNP) have demanded it be held on Dec. 9, arguing more students will still be at university and able to vote on the earlier date.
A source at 10 Downing Street, the British prime minister’s official residence, indicated Johnson was willing to compromise on the date. The source suggested the government was willing to accept a compromise date of Dec. 11, and would agree to amend the early parliamentary election bill on Tuesday to specify this.
“I have consistently said that we are ready for an election and our support is subject to a no-deal Brexit being off the table,” Corbyn told the shadow cabinet Tuesday morning.
“We have now heard from the EU that the extension of Article 50 to Jan. 31 has been confirmed, so for the next three months, our condition of taking no deal off the table has now been met,” he continued.
“We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.”
Labour has been divided over whether or not to back an election. Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman tweeted it was “sheer madness” to hold an election in December.
Kevan Jones, the MP for North Durham, said he would not be voting for an early election as the Brexit “impasse” could only be overcome by further debate of Johnson’s Brexit deal.
The prime minister called for an election after being forced to break his pledge to leave the EU by Oct. 31 because he could not get his Brexit deal through the House in time.
On Monday night, he was denied the two-thirds Commons majority he needed for a snap election in a vote on a Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FTPA) motion.
But Johnson responded by backing a Lib Dem/SNP plan for legislation to get around the FTPA, meaning only a simple majority of MPs was required to trigger an election.
The prime minister also promised to drop his Brexit deal, almost guaranteeing SNP and Lib Dem support while forcing Labour into backing the early parliamentary election bill or face being dragged into an election against its will.
It effectively pitches the first winter election in decades as a battle for Brexit. The last December election in the U.K. was in 1923.
Johnson took office in July vowing to “get Brexit done” after his predecessor, Theresa May, resigned in defeat. Parliament had rejected her divorce deal three times, and the EU had delayed Britain’s scheduled March 29 departure, first to April, and then to the end of October.
The EU on Monday agreed to extend the Brexit deadline for a third time, this time until Jan. 31.
Johnson, who said just weeks ago that he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than postpone the U.K.’s leaving date past Oct. 31, was forced to seek the extension on Parliament’s orders to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would damage the economies of both Britain and the EU.
“We cannot continue with this endless delay,” Johnson said Monday.
With files from The Associated Press