LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has threatened to purge any lawmaker in his party who votes against the government on Brexit in a dramatic escalation of tensions ahead of a crucial week at Westminster.
A senior source in the whips office, responsible for party enforcement, said any Conservative lawmaker who votes against the government this week would be thrown out of the parliamentary party and banned from standing for the Conservatives in the next election.
“The whips are telling Conservative MPs (members of parliament) today a very simple message – if they fail to vote with the government on Tuesday they will be destroying the government’s negotiating position and handing control of parliament to Jeremy Corbyn,” the source said.
“Any Conservative MP who does this will have the whip withdrawn and will not stand as Conservative candidates in an election.”
The battle for Brexit will enter the endgame this week when opposition lawmakers from all parties seek to either change the law, or the government, in their drive to block what they say would be an economically damaging no-deal Brexit.
Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, will say on Monday that he is ready to do everything possible to stop a no-deal Brexit, describing it as a final attempt to pull “our country back from the brink”.
That puts him on a collision course with Johnson, figurehead of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, who has upped the stakes in the battle since coming to power in July by vowing to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a deal on Oct. 31.
He says any attempt to force his hand in parliament through votes this week will hamper his efforts to secure a new deal from Brussels.
But Johnson has a working majority of just one seat in the 650-seat chamber, meaning his threat to eject lawmakers such as the former finance minister Philip Hammond or former justice minister David Gauke could lead to an election.
“I understand calling an election, maybe even this week, is one of the options under consideration,” the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said.
“It is far from inevitable, but it’s not impossible that, within a matter of days, we could all be asked to go to the polls again.”
Britain’s education minister Gavin Williamson, himself a former chief whip, said Johnson did not want to call an election but it was right to threaten any lawmakers with deselection because they were undermining Britain’s position with Brussels.