Boris Johnson has dramatically offered to shelve plans to ratify his EU withdrawal deal, in a desperate last-ditch scramble to force a December general election.

The last-minute offer sets the scene for a possible pre-Christmas poll which would be dominated by Brexit – and by the prime minister’s failure to take the UK out of the EU by his self-imposed Halloween deadline.

But Mr Johnson is far from certain of securing his preferred date of 12 December in a Commons vote on Tuesday, as opposition parties made clear they do not trust him to deliver on his promises.

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Despite having drawn up similar proposals of their own for a 9 December election, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party made it clear that they would have to scrutinise Mr Johnson’s one-line bill closely before declaring whether they could support it. Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem leader, said her party had already rejected the date favoured by the prime minister.

And Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would require “a clear, definitive decision that no deal is absolutely off the table and there is no danger of this prime minister not sticking to his word” before it could consider backing the plan.

Shape Created with Sketch.
UK news in pictures

1/50 28 October 2019

Paul Hayes of Lower Lydbrook ferries children to dry land after the River Wye burst its banks flooding the Gloucestershire village
Cosplayers during the third day of London’s Comic Con

3/50 26 October 2019

England fans celebrate after their side beat New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semi-final match in Japan. Eddie Jones’s side won 19-7

4/50 25 October 2019

Meerkats at Blair Drummond Safari Park, Stirling, investigate a carved pumpkin as the park celebrates national pumpkin day on Saturday October 26.

5/50 24 October 2019

A giant inflatable monster, created by artists Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas, is unveiled in Manchester ahead of the city’s annual halloween celebrations

6/50 23 October 2019

Thirty-nine bodies have been found in a lorry container in Essex, police have said.

The discovery of 38 adults and one teenager was made at an industrial estate in Thurrock.

Police said they believed the lorry had come from Bulgaria and entered the UK at Holyhead, in Wales, on Saturday.

Essex Police said it had launched a murder investigation after its officers were called to Waterglade Industrial Park, in Grays, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder

7/50 22 October 2019

Ships out at sea before the sun rises off the coast of Whitley Bay, Northumberland

8/50 21 October 2019

Hundreds of students take part in the traditional Raisin Monday foam fight on St Salvator’s Lower College Lawn at the University of St Andrews in Fife. The messy display is the culmination of a weekend of festivities where first years say thank you to their more senior student “parents” for mentoring them

9/50 20 October 2019

Wales players celebrate after beating France in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Japan. Warren Gatland’s side had to battle after France’s fast start but capitalised on their rivals’ ill discipline to squeeze into the semi-finals, 20-19

10/50 19 October 2019

People gather in London to join the Final Say march for a people’s vote

11/50 18 October 2019

Protesters on Whitehall in London during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest

12/50 17 October 2019

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during a news conference after agreeing on a Brexit deal, in Brussels

13/50 16 October 2019

A man walks his dog through the fallen leaves in Clarkes Gardens, Allerton in Liverpool

14/50 15 October 2019

Police officers carry away an activist as Extinction Rebellion protesters block a road with a caravan in central London

15/50 14 October 2019

Queen Elizabeth II sits with Prince Charles on the Sovereign’s throne ahead of delivering the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament

16/50 13 October 2019

Great Britain’s Joe Fraser competes on Parallel Bars during the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. He claimed GB’s second gold with his victory. The 20-year-old from Birmingham nailed his routine to score 15.0 then watched as a series of rivals failed to live up to his total

17/50 12 October 2019

St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after they won the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in Manchester. They beat Salford Red Devils 23-6

18/50 11 October 2019

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Tehran since 2016, holds his daughter Gabriella during a news conference in London. Their five-year-old daughter has arrived back in Britain, after making the “bittersweet” decision to bring her home

19/50 10 October 2019

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Thornton Manor. Their meeting focused on further Brexit proposals

20/50 9 October 2019

Wales survived an almighty scare against Fiji to secure quarter-final spot at the rugby world cup. Warren Gatland’s side recovered from a 10-0 deficit thanks to a hat-trick from Josh Adams

21/50 8 October 2019

Protesters dubbed the Red Rebels at Millbank at the junction with Great College Street, during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Westminster

22/50 7 October 2019

Final preparations are made in front of a reproduction of Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’, ahead of the opening of for the ‘Michelangelo: A Different View’ exhibition at Hull Minister

23/50 6 October 2019

A car drives through a flooded street in Whitley Bay in Northumberland

24/50 5 October 2019

Thousands took to the streets of Edinburgh today to march in support of a second Scottish independence referendum

25/50 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire

26/50 3 October 2019

Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

27/50 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses

28/50 1 October 2019

A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain

29/50 30 September 2019

Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

30/50 29 September 2019

A sheep on London Bridge as Freemen of the City of London took up their historic entitlement to drive sheep over the bridge, which was once London’s only river crossing

31/50 28 September 2019

An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

32/50 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

33/50 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

34/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

35/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

36/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

37/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

38/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

39/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

40/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

41/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

42/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

43/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

44/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

46/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

47/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

48/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

49/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

50/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

1/50 28 October 2019

Paul Hayes of Lower Lydbrook ferries children to dry land after the River Wye burst its banks flooding the Gloucestershire village
Cosplayers during the third day of London’s Comic Con

3/50 26 October 2019

England fans celebrate after their side beat New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semi-final match in Japan. Eddie Jones’s side won 19-7

4/50 25 October 2019

Meerkats at Blair Drummond Safari Park, Stirling, investigate a carved pumpkin as the park celebrates national pumpkin day on Saturday October 26.

5/50 24 October 2019

A giant inflatable monster, created by artists Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas, is unveiled in Manchester ahead of the city’s annual halloween celebrations

6/50 23 October 2019

Thirty-nine bodies have been found in a lorry container in Essex, police have said.

The discovery of 38 adults and one teenager was made at an industrial estate in Thurrock.

Police said they believed the lorry had come from Bulgaria and entered the UK at Holyhead, in Wales, on Saturday.

Essex Police said it had launched a murder investigation after its officers were called to Waterglade Industrial Park, in Grays, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder

7/50 22 October 2019

Ships out at sea before the sun rises off the coast of Whitley Bay, Northumberland

8/50 21 October 2019

Hundreds of students take part in the traditional Raisin Monday foam fight on St Salvator’s Lower College Lawn at the University of St Andrews in Fife. The messy display is the culmination of a weekend of festivities where first years say thank you to their more senior student “parents” for mentoring them

9/50 20 October 2019

Wales players celebrate after beating France in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Japan. Warren Gatland’s side had to battle after France’s fast start but capitalised on their rivals’ ill discipline to squeeze into the semi-finals, 20-19

10/50 19 October 2019

People gather in London to join the Final Say march for a people’s vote

11/50 18 October 2019

Protesters on Whitehall in London during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest

12/50 17 October 2019

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during a news conference after agreeing on a Brexit deal, in Brussels

13/50 16 October 2019

A man walks his dog through the fallen leaves in Clarkes Gardens, Allerton in Liverpool

14/50 15 October 2019

Police officers carry away an activist as Extinction Rebellion protesters block a road with a caravan in central London

15/50 14 October 2019

Queen Elizabeth II sits with Prince Charles on the Sovereign’s throne ahead of delivering the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament

16/50 13 October 2019

Great Britain’s Joe Fraser competes on Parallel Bars during the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. He claimed GB’s second gold with his victory. The 20-year-old from Birmingham nailed his routine to score 15.0 then watched as a series of rivals failed to live up to his total

17/50 12 October 2019

St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after they won the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in Manchester. They beat Salford Red Devils 23-6

18/50 11 October 2019

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Tehran since 2016, holds his daughter Gabriella during a news conference in London. Their five-year-old daughter has arrived back in Britain, after making the “bittersweet” decision to bring her home

19/50 10 October 2019

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Thornton Manor. Their meeting focused on further Brexit proposals

20/50 9 October 2019

Wales survived an almighty scare against Fiji to secure quarter-final spot at the rugby world cup. Warren Gatland’s side recovered from a 10-0 deficit thanks to a hat-trick from Josh Adams

21/50 8 October 2019

Protesters dubbed the Red Rebels at Millbank at the junction with Great College Street, during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Westminster

22/50 7 October 2019

Final preparations are made in front of a reproduction of Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’, ahead of the opening of for the ‘Michelangelo: A Different View’ exhibition at Hull Minister

23/50 6 October 2019

A car drives through a flooded street in Whitley Bay in Northumberland

24/50 5 October 2019

Thousands took to the streets of Edinburgh today to march in support of a second Scottish independence referendum

25/50 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire

26/50 3 October 2019

Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

27/50 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses

28/50 1 October 2019

A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain

29/50 30 September 2019

Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

30/50 29 September 2019

A sheep on London Bridge as Freemen of the City of London took up their historic entitlement to drive sheep over the bridge, which was once London’s only river crossing

31/50 28 September 2019

An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

32/50 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

33/50 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

34/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

35/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

36/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

37/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

38/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

39/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

40/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

41/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

42/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

43/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

44/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

46/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

47/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

48/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

49/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

50/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

The PM’s proposal to legislate to overrule fixed-term parliament rules which set the next election date in May 2022 came just moments after he failed at his third attempt to secure the two-thirds majority needed to bring it forward without amending the law.

After opposition parties signalled fears that he could try to sneak his Brexit deal through parliament under cover of the legislation, Downing Street issued a statement promising that Mr Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill would not be reintroduced.

The bill passed its second reading in the Commons on 22 October, but any hopes the PM had of achieving ratification in time for a Halloween Brexit were dashed when MPs voted down his proposed timetable.

In a clear bid to win over opposition MPs, a senior No 10 source said Mr Johnson’s new plan was “very similar” to the bill drafted by Lib Dems and the SNP. And he added: “The WAB will not be put back. This is the way to get Brexit done so the country can move on.”

Opposition parties voiced concern that Mr Johnson’s proposed exit date came after students have returned home from university for their Christmas break, with Mr Corbyn claiming that many would be “disenfranchised” along with elderly and disabled voters who would not venture to the polling stations in the potentially cold and wet conditions of a December ballot.

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But Tories pointed to information suggesting that none of the UK’s 40 biggest universities will have ended term by 12 December.

The PM makes hi scase in the Commons on Monday (EPA)

The drama in the Commons came after the European Union finally killed off any chance of a no-deal Brexit on Thursday, announcing a “flextension” delay to 31 January, with the option for earlier departure if Mr Johnson’s withdrawal deal is approved by parliament.

In a letter accepting the three-month delay, Mr Johnson told Donald Tusk, the European Council president, that he regarded “this unwanted prolongation of the UK’s membership” as “damaging to our democracy” and urged the EU to make clear there would be no further extensions beyond January.

And he said: “While we will of course not seek to deliberately disrupt the EU’s business, I must underline that I continue to have a responsibility as prime minister to protect the UK’s national interests during this period, including in EU decision-making.”

Downing Street declined to say whether the UK would now appoint a new European commissioner, but confirmed that the £100m “Get ready for Brexit” advertising campaign is being paused.

Despite the move from Brussels, Mr Johnson failed hours later to win the 434 MPs’ backing needed for an early election as his motion won 299 votes in favour to 70 against. Labour MPs were whipped to abstain, with just Kate Hoey rebelling to support the election motion.

Mr Johnson told MPs that voters would find the official opposition’s refusal to support an election “utterly bewildering”.

Declaring his next effort to secure a poll, he said: “We will not allow this paralysis to continue. One way or another, we must proceed straight to an election.

“This House can’t any longer hold this country hostage … Now that no deal is off the table, we have a great new deal and it is time for the voters to have a chance to pronounce on that deal and replace this dysfunctional parliament with a new parliament that can get Brexit done.”

Former chancellor Philip Hammond – stripped of the Tory whip after rebelling over no deal – denounced the PM’s move as “self-indulgent”.

“Parliament showed last week it wanted to get on with the bill – it’s the government that hasn’t allowed us to do so,” said Mr Hammond. “So stop the self-indulgent focus on elections on both sides and concentrate on passing the bill. If we’d done that last week, we could have finished it by now.”

Mr Johnson’s words concealed deep divisions within his party over the wisdom of going to the country before EU withdrawal is complete, leaving Tories vulnerable to attack by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

But Mr Corbyn also faces disquiet among his parliamentary party about the prospect of an election in which polls suggest many of them could lose their seats.

Responding to the PM’s latest proposal, Ms Swinson said: “Boris Johnson claims he wants a general election, but he also claimed he wouldn’t prorogue parliament or put a border down the Irish sea. If Boris Johnson wants a general election, then he could have supported our bill for a general election on 9 December. Instead, he has chosen to stick to his original plan for 12 December which we have already rejected.

“Liberal Democrats are the strongest party of Remain and will continue to campaign to stop Brexit, just as we have for the last three years.”

An SNP source said: “The SNP will consider the contents of the bill when it is published and will scrutinise it very carefully. We want an election, but we know that time and again this Tory government has shown it cannot be trusted.”