close

News WrapGet Handpicked Stories from our editors directly to your mailbox

Is it too late to hold an election before Brexit? Yes, probably

Lawmakers who want to stop no-deal are threatening to bring the government down with a vote of no confidence. That would likely trigger an election, but could that happen before Brexit?

How can an election be called?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he will take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 with or without an exit deal. His opponents say they will try to stop a no-deal exit even if that means forcing an early election.

Lawmakers who want to stop no deal are threatening to bring the government down with a vote of no confidence. That would likely trigger an election, but could that happen before Brexit?

The next election is scheduled in 2022.

An early election is possible if a majority of lawmakers in Britain's 650-seat parliament vote to hold one.

(Photograph:AFP)

Who decides when the election is held?

Boris Johnson.

There are legal restrictions setting out a minimum period before an election can take place after the government loses a no-confidence vote, but not on the maximum period before one needs to be held.

The House of Commons Library, the parliamentary authority on process and procedure, says election law "gives the prime minister broad legal discretion about when an early general election should take place".

(Photograph:Reuters)

File photo.

File Photo

(Photograph:Reuters)

What does the law say?

In 2011, Britain introduced new laws setting out a fixed schedule for an election every five years, with provisions for holding an early election. 

Under these laws, after losing a no-confidence vote the prime minister or his political rivals have 14 days to prove they can govern by winning a vote in parliament. 

If no government has proven itself during that period, the prime minister moves to dissolve parliament and sets an election date no sooner than 25 working days after parliament is dissolved.

Dissolution does not have to happen immediately and the date for an election can be more than 25 days from dissolution.

(Photograph:Reuters)

When is the earliest an election could happen?

This sets out the fastest possible timeline for an election:

September 3 - Opposition Labour Party propose no-confidence motion.

September 4 - No-confidence motion is voted upon, government loses.

September 18 - 14-day period ends without an alternative government.

September 19 - Government chooses election date.

September 20 - Parliament is dissolved.

October 25 - Earliest possible polling day if Johnson ignores convention that elections take place on a Thursday.

October 31 - Earliest possible polling day if Johnson sticks to convention that elections take place on a Thursday.

(Photograph:Reuters)