(Bloomberg) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood in a police academy in the north of England, giving a speech that was supposed to mark the start of a month long snap election campaign.
Instead, the U.K.’s embattled leader was trying to fight back after a series of humiliating defeats for his Brexit strategy, culminating in the resignation of his own brother in protest at his plans.
Out of options, Johnson doubled down on his plan to trigger a general election to win a parliamentary majority so he can fulfill his pledge to take the U.K. out of the European Union -- with or without a divorce deal -- on Oct. 31. He didn’t say if he’d resign if he failed but Johnson declared he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than agree to another Brexit delay.
“We want an election on October 15 and indeed earlier,” Johnson said on Thursday. “I really don’t see how you can have a situation in which the British ability to negotiate is absolutely torpedoed by Parliament.”
Johnson’s speech came after he was forced to give up fighting his opponents in Parliament after losing to them multiple times. Opposition politicians joined rebels from Johnson’s own Conservative ranks to push through a law designed to stop him crashing Britain out of the EU with no deal next month. Then they thwarted his attempt to force a way through by triggering a snap election.
The premier dismayed his colleagues by expelling MPs who rebelled against him from the Conservative Party, including two former chancellors and Winston Churchill’s grandson. By Thursday, the premier’s radical “do or die” approach had become too much for his brother.
Announcing his decision on Twitter, Jo Johnson said he had been torn between loyalty for his brother, the prime minister, and the “national interest.’’ He chose the latter and quit as skills minister. He’ll also no longer attend Johnson’s cabinet.
Johnson put on a brave face -- but the symbolism couldn’t be clearer.
“Jo doesn’t agree with me about the EU because it’s an issue obviously that divides families, that divides everybody,” said Johnson, before noting that his brother supports his wider agenda for the country.
--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson.
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