Welcome back

The FT's Westminster live blog is back in action ahead of what is expected to be a hectic week in UK politics. Boris Johnson over the weekend threatened to strip the party whip from Tory MPs who stand against him in parliament later this week as the prime minister looks to thwart a rebellion in his own party.

Sterling has started the week off on weak footing, UK government bonds are rallying ... and to top it off, we've received a round of gloomy data on the factory sector.

Follow along throughout the day as FT reporters bring you the latest developments.

Petitioners in Scottish court challenge seek to appeal decision to reject emergency injunction of suspension

A Scottish court ruled last week against launching an emergency injunction to stop Boris Johnson from suspending parliament. A cross-party group of petitioners have now started a new attempt to have that decision overturned, reports the FT's Scotland correspondent, Mure Dickie.

This case is one of three that are expected to be heard in courts across the UK this week against Mr Johnson's proroguing of parliament that has thrust the UK into a constitutional crisis.

Tory civil war intensifies

Boris Johnson was accused on Monday of deliberately “goading” Conservative rebels into voting down his Brexit strategy so that he can purge them from the party and then hold a snap general election, writes the FT’s political editor George Parker.

David Gauke, one of the leading Tory rebels opposed to a no-deal Brexit, said Mr Johnson was taking a “confrontational” approach and was doing nothing to try to head off a defeat in the Commons this week.

His comments came after Boris Johnson threatened yesterday to purge some of the party’s biggest beasts — including former chancellor Philip Hammond — unless they back him in a key Brexit vote on Tuesday.

Mr Johnson last night abruptly cancelled face-to-face talks scheduled for this morning with 15 Tory rebels including Mr Hammond, David Lidington, the former deputy prime minister, and David Gauke, former justice secretary, citing a “diary clash” and further heightening tensions.

What's going on?

FT reporters and columnists have been hard at work on recent days explaining just what is going on in British politics. Here are some highlights from our coverage:

In this short video editorial director Robert Shrimsley explains why Boris Johnson wanted to suspend parliament and what this means for Brexit.

Constitutional lawyer David Allen Green argues here that the prorogration of parliament is "an attack on direct democracy."

And here, political editor George Parker and chief political correspondent Jim Pickard explain the role of Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson's backroom adviser and the architect of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, in parliament being suspended.

A must read: the Corbyn shake-up

Meanwhile, FT research outlines how the economic agenda of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party will change Britain’s economy:
FT Series: The Corbyn revolution

Cost soars for Labour’s grand pledge to reshape the economy: FT research finds the next Labour government will have to find at least £26bn in new tax rises

UK’s Labour party would seize £300bn of company shares

Corbyn’s plan to rewrite the rules

Mr Corbyn, pictured above with MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, is speaking in Salford this morning about his opposition to a no-deal Brexit.

Sterling shaken by escalating standoff within Tory party

The pound fell below $1.21 this morning, as the Tory civil war intensified, with expectations of a rocky week ahead for the currency amid plans by party rebels to work with Labour to block a no-deal Brexit.

Sterling shed 0.7 per cent against the dollar to trade most recently at $1.2075. Against the euro, it was down 0.5 per cent at €1.1012.

Traders will be closely watching as the opposition, in tandem with the rebels, looks to seize control of the House of Commons order paper and then pass a law to stop Mr Johnson from executing a no-deal departure from the EU on October 31.

Mr Johnson told the rebels on Sunday they would be stripped of the party whip and banned from standing as Tory candidates at the next election if they do not back his tough line on Brexit.

“The pound will initially attempt to add to its recent gains if opposition MPs are successful in passing legislation in the week ahead,” said Lee Hardman, a currency analyst at MUFG.

“However, those gains could prove short-lived as it remains unclear how the government will respond to the request from parliament.”

The 'Rebel Alliance'

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away...OK not really. But British politics now has its own so-called Rebel Alliance in the form of Conservative, Labour and other politicians who are opposed to the UK leaving the EU on October 31 without a transition deal.

In a BBC radio interview this morning David Gauke, who is considered the, ahem, Luke Skywalker of the rebels, accused Mr Johnson of "goading" MPs who do not agree with him into rebelling so he can then purge them from the Tory party.

Mr Johnson has warned the rebels they will lose the party whip and be banned from standing as Conservative candidates in an election, which some believe he could call within days if he is defeated in the Commons this week.

On the Today programme, Mr Gauke said:

I think their strategy, to be honest, is to lose this week and seek a general election having removed those of us who are not against Brexit or leaving the EU but believe we should do so with a deal.

On Sunday, Mr Johnson refused a request from the Tory rebels for a meeting at Westminster today and Mr Gauke confirmed this morning that party whips or other senior figures were doing nothing to try to win over the rebels.

Of course, removing sitting Tory MPs would make Mr Johnson lose his majority in parliament, at which point a snap general election becomes more likely.

Who are the Tory rebels?

Heavy hitting former cabinet ministers are among a group of Tory MPs who have come out against a no-deal Brexit:

Philip Hammond, chancellor during Theresa May's premiership
David Lidington, the former deputy prime minister
Guto Bebb, former Tory defence minister
Rory Stewart, former international development secretary
David Gauke, the former Tory justice secretary (see Naomi's post below)

Last month 21 Conservative MPs signed a letter opposing a no-deal Brexit.

UK government debt rallies as no-deal Brexit fears swell

Investors are shifting into UK government bonds amid deepening worries that Britain is heading for a potentially damaging no-deal Brexit.

Two-year gilts, seen as sensitive to expectations for monetary policy, are rallying the most strongly. The yield is currently down 4.8 basis points at 0.353 per cent. The 10-year gilt yield is down 3.4 bps at 0.446 per cent. Yields fall when prices rise.

The recent fall in gilt yields is part of a broad rally in the debt of highly rated countries. But it also comes amid rising jitters that the UK will exit the EU with no divorce deal — something that is broadly expected to hit the economy.

Brexit uncertainty has already shown up in economic data. A report released on Monday showed factory activity is contracting at the swiftest pace in seven years.

FTSE 100 extends four-day winning streak

London's benchmark stock index is up 1.2 per cent in mid-morning trading, adding nearly 3 per cent since its close on August 27. Many blue chips are multinationals that traditionally benefit from a weaker pound. Sterling was recently down 0.7 per cent against the dollar at $1.2076. That makes it 8 per cent lower than it was six months ago. Against the euro, it was at €1.1011, down 0.5 per cent.

Shadow cabinet set to meet in Salford to finalise gameplan

Senior officials in the opposition Labour party will meet at an emergency shadow cabinet in Salford today to set out their plans for the week to block a no-deal Brexit ahead of parliament’s return tomorrow.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Jeremy Corbyn said a no-deal Brexit would “decimate industry and destroy people’s jobs”.

In a wide ranging speech, the leader of the opposition set out his party's stall ahead of a possible general election in the not-so-distant future.

He described the prime minister’s plans to suspend parliament for five weeks in order to limit the time opponents of his strategy have to thwart it as “an attack on democracy which will be resisted”.

“First we must come together to stop no-deal. This week could be our last chance,” said Mr Corbyn.

“We are working with other parties to do everything necessary to pull our country back from the brink. Then we need a general election.”

What about the Irish border?

Here, our columnist Jonathan Ford wonders why Boris Johnson seems not to be bothered by the question of the Irish border post-Brexit.

The Irish Republic will of course remain in the EU, while Northern Ireland would leave with Britain.

The "biggest barrier" in the way of a consensual Brexit, Jonathan writes, is the so-called Irish backstop that would keep Northern Ireland and by extension the UK in some aspects of the European Single Market, until a solution is found to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

Mr Johnson is against this backstop concept, while the EU is for it.

Yet when it comes to producing a plan to scrap it, Jonathan writes, Mr Johnson's ministers have been strangely silent.

Read more here

Blair: beware the election 'elephant trap'

Speculation is raging in Westminster that any move by Boris Johnson to goad anti no-deal ministers into resigning could be a precursor to the prime minister calling a snap general election.

How? Well, if Mr Johnson loses his already-slim majority in parliament because rebel MPs resign en masse, he could seek a snap election to strengthen his position as prime minister.

The focus of Conservative supporters and potential voters could then shift from no-deal fears to worries about a Jeremy Corbyn-led, leftwing government.

Mr Blair said earlier today, as reported by newswires:

Boris Johnson knows that if no-deal Brexit stands on its own as a proposition it might well fail but if he mixes it up with the Corbyn question in a general election he could succeed despite a majority being against a no-deal Brexit because some may fear a Corbyn premiership more.

Mr Blair forecast that Mr Johnson's election campaign would be framed as a choice between a populist Conservative programme versus the economic profligacy of a far-left administration.

Mr Blair then advised Mr Corbyn not to fall for such a ploy, adding he should:

See an election before Brexit is decided for the elephant trap it is.

He then advised:

If the government tries to force an election now, Labour should vote against it.

Johnson 'does not want to force election' ⁠⁠— spokesperson

Boris Johnson is not attempting to "goad" Tory rebels into voting against him in parliament and ultimately sparking an election, his spokesperson has said.

The prime minister's representative rejected allegations levied by David Gauke that Mr Johnson is intentionally stoking a rebellion in his own party in an attempt to force an election, the FT's George Parker reports.

"His answer is that he doesn't want there to be an election," the spokesman told reporters in London. "What he wants is for the UK to get out of the EU on October 31 and that's what he's working on."

Downing St said that Boris Johnson would be meeting Tory MPs during the course of the day. There will also be a potentially awkward, long-planned drinks reception for all Tory MPs at Downing St tonight. Expect some tense discussions over the canapes.

Meanwhile David Frost, Mr Johnson's Brexit negotiator, will be in Brussels this week to discuss the Irish backstop and changes to the non-binding political declaration, pointing Britain in the direction of a Canada-style free trade agreement.

So far Britain has tabled no new proposals as an alternative to the backstop and Number 10 gave no indication that Mr Frost would do so this week.

Gone to the dogs...

On a slightly lighter note, there has been a new addition to the Downing Street staff in the shape of a four-month-old puppy which is taking up residence with the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and his partner, Carrie Symonds.

The 15-week-old Jack Russell-cross has been adopted from Friends of Animals Wales, after being rescued from a Welsh puppy farm.

Corbyn 'will back' a general election

Despite warnings from his predecessor Tony Blair that a general election called by Boris Johnson would be a "trap", Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appears to want the British public to once again go to the polls.

Following a press conference in Salford, Mr Corbyn told Sky's Kate McCann that he would back a snap election under any circumstances, the political correspondent said on Twitter.


Cabinet meeting planned for this afternoon

Boris Johnson has convened an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday afternoon, fuelling speculation that he could call a general election if his Brexit strategy is defeated in the House of Commons this week, reports the FT's George Parker.

David Gauke, one of the leading Tory rebels opposed to a no-deal Brexit, said Mr Johnson was taking a “confrontational” approach with Tory rebels, with an aim of purging them from the party before calling an election.

Rumours swept Westminster on Monday morning that Mr Johnson could this week try to trigger an election with the aim of seeking a new public mandate to deliver Brexit, either with or without a deal.

'Bring it on' says Sturgeon as election speculation mounts

As speculation ricochets around Westminster that an imminent general election is in the offing, politicians are priming themselves, with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon the latest to weigh in.

“As talk of a General Election mounts, I say ‘bring it on’...but it must be before Oct 31,” Ms Sturgeon tweeted. “MPs must not allow Johnson to game the date as a ploy to push through a no-deal Brexit.”

Speculation is rife that the prime minister might go to the polls in an attempt to seek a new mandate to deliver Brexit, with or without a deal.

Ms Sturgeon’s comments follow reports from Sky News that Jeremy Corbyn has said he would back a snap election under any circumstances.

No. 10 insists it doesn't want election even as talk of one accelerates

Chatter about a snap election is going through the roof, says Sebastian Payne. But Downing Street officially insists that it still does not want an election - it wants to deliver Brexit on October 31 with or without a deal.

Its first instinct is that the public are “fed up” with the arguing about leaving the EU and wants “to end the nightmare on October 31”.

But Mr Johnson’s inner circle is unwilling to let parliament undermine the government's negotiating strategy. Senior officials think that “sitting around” and waiting for parliament to act is “pointless”, citing how former prime minister Theresa May lost control of her Brexit strategy to MPs and was forced to delay the UK’s exit twice.

So while there is no inclination for a poll, insiders think it may be preferable to losing control of Brexit. One official said “the worst that can happen is it blows up into an election versus Corbyn” and, in that instance, those around the prime minister think the Vote Leave campaign team from the 2016 referendum, reconstituted inside government with Mr Johnson at the helm, can win.

Bookie suspends general election bets

At least one major gambling businesses has called off bets on whether Boris Johnson will hold a general election.

Following the news that Mr Johnson has called a cabinet meeting for later today, Paddy Power said:

The odds of the election to be announced fell from 2/5 this morning, into 1/5 and finally 1/10 in the last hour – before the bookies stopped taking any further bets on it.

The Tories are currently the odds-on 4/11 favourites to win the election, with Labour rated 3/1 and the Liberal Democrats 11/1.

And, a no deal Brexit is now more likely – as the odds fall from 11/8 this morning to 11/10 now.

The news also makes the chances of Britain leaving without a deal more likely than ever.”

Irish PM suggests meeting Johnson next week for first time

Leo Varadkar has said he will listen to “any proposals” from Boris Johnson on the future of the Irish border after the UK leaves the EU as Ireland’s premier said he may meet his UK counterpart next week for the first time.

But the Irish leader insisted nothing the UK has presented would settle the problem, Arthur Beesley in Dublin writes.

Mr Varadkar added that he wanted to see how events unfold in Westminster this week before taking stock.

What I would say is that this is a very volatile and dynamic situation. Events are happening in the House of Commons this week and we're going to have to see how they pan out.

I could very easily say something today or make an initiative and find out in 48 hours that it is totally out of date, so I think we have to allow things to develop in Westminster, in particular over the next week and review the situation again next week.

Mr Varadkar has not met Mr Johnson since the British prime minister took office in July. Officials are looking at two possible dates for a meeting next week, he indicated.

Mr Johnson wants to scrap the “backstop” to guarantee open borders between the Irish republic and Northern Ireland but Dublin insists the UK government has not put forward any viable alternative to it.

Johnson is 'pushing the UK constitution to the limit'

Our columnist, constitutional lawyer David Allen Green, has this to say about Boris Johnson's prorogation of parliament:

Prorogation was a minor detail of our unwritten constitution, done in the name of the monarch — but in reality at the choice of the prime minister — to ensure a neat parliamentary separation between one legislative term and the next.

But all this has changed.

Boris Johnson’s government is pushing the UK’s uncodified constitution to its limits, if not beyond. Conventions are being flouted brazenly. This, as with the many other constitutional wrongs committed by this government, will have lasting consequences for the UK polity.

But the government cannot take it for granted that the courts will nod along with this vandalism. To adapt a famous constitutional saying, the arrogance of the executive has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

Read David's full column here.

And in other news....

In the ramp-up to a possible election, everything is fair game. And here's Boris Johnson giving the news cycle a cuddle with some snaps of his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, and their new rescue puppy. The dog is called Dilyn, which translates along the lines of "loyal" from Gaelic and "follow" from Welsh.

Note they did not christen it "backstop."

This, our Whitehall correspondent Seb Payne informs us, is Carrie's second-ever official photo.

Rebel MPs gather

Tory MPs opposed to no deal are holding a meeting at 2.30pm, our chief political correspondent Jim Pickard writes.

One of them tells me that the looming threat of a general election could be bona fide, but also could be Boris Johnson's adviser and Leave campaign architect Dominic Cummings seeking to scare the rebels back into line.

“That lot are totally ruthless, they would say or do anything they feel necessary, part of me thinks this is a threat just to cow us.”

Then again I’ve also just chatted to a loyalist minister who thinks a general election is now the only way out of the political morass: “It needs to happen, what choice do we have, what other way is there through?”

Goldman Sachs: odds of no-deal Brexit rise to 1 in 4

As tensions increase within Tory ranks, the chances of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal are also on the rise, according to Goldman Sachs.

The investment bank says there is now a 1 in 4 chance of a no-deal Brexit, up from 1 in 5 previously, ahead of this week’s standoff between party rebels and the government.

Analysts at Goldman reckon MPs will likely be successful in their push to pass legislation to block no deal this week, but caution that this will not put an end to the matter, with a general election seen as increasingly imminent.

“If this week’s legislative counterattack culminates in a pre-Brexit general election, that general election may return a new configuration of MPs in which there is a clear majority for a no-deal Brexit,” the analysts said.

Goldman’s latest prediction follows a similar move raising probability of no deal by JPMorgan last week, which boosted its odds of a crash out to 35 per cent, from 25 per cent previously.

Rebels poised to push for 3-month Brexit extension

Rebel MPs will try to force the government to seek a 3-month extension to the Brexit process, the BBC has reported.

Legislation set to be put forward by MPs in a bid to prevent a crash out at the end of October will call for an extension of Article 50 until January 31, BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg tweeted.

This would come into effect “if there is no new deal passed by Parliament or if parliament has agreed to no deal by October 19” Ms Kuenssberg said.

Lords speaker lashes out at proposal to flood upper house with pro-Brexit peers

Norman Fowler, the House of Lords speaker and a former Conservative cabinet minister, has attacked the idea that the Johnson government may try to pack out the upper chamber with Brexit-supporting peers, the FT's Whitehall correspondent, Seb Payne, reports.

He has tweeted:

"When I assumed office as Lord Speaker 3 years ago I did not quite expect the current political position.

"One proposal is that the Gov should appoint 100 new peers. Nothing could be worse.

"It would be totally against the recent appointments policy which has been one of moderation".

This is another remarkable intervention. Similarly to John Bercow, his counterpart in the House of Commons, Lord Fowler does not take a political stance in his position and usually avoids attacking the government.

Sterling under further pressure with no-deal angst rising

The pound is hitting the lows of the day in afternoon action in London as UK political uncertainty swells.

Sterling was recently down 0.92 per cent against the US dollar at $1.2045, less than 50 cents above its lows of 2019.

The drop comes amid growing speculation that a snap election is in the offing, coupled with rising anxiety that a no-deal Brexit may be looming just weeks away.

Former chancellor demands answers

Philip Hammond, the chancellor under Theresa May, has written to the prime minister demanding what, exactly, his plans to negotiate the terms of Brexit with the EU really are.

Rebel Conservative MPs, including Mr Hammond, were set to meet with Boris Johnson today and had hoped to ask him about negotiation points including the Irish backstop.

The meeting was cancelled, although Mr Johnson is going to meet with Conservative MPs on the Downing Street lawn this evening.

In the meantime, Mr Johnson been hosting former Eastenders and Carry On actress Dame Barbara Windsor at number 10 to discuss care for people with dementia.

Snap election 'will lead to' another hung parliament

According to a new poll of 10,000 adults, a snap general election would produce...another hung parliament, our Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne writes.

According to the survey, commissioned by the Conservative Group for Europe - a pro-European group led by former attorney general Dominic Grieve and ex-chancellor Ken Clarke - an election would reject the Tories but it would not emphatically endorse any other party.
According to FocalData, who used the MRP method to produce the survey, an election would produce the following outcome (changes from the 2017 election in brackets):
Conservative: 311 (-6 seats)
Labour: 242 (-20 seats)
Liberal Democrats: 21 (+9 seats)
SNP: 52 (+17 seats)
Plaid: 4 (no change)
Green: 1 (no change)
Others: 1
There’s a few things to note. First it covers just Great Britain, with no results for Northern Ireland. So if the Democratic Unionist party held onto their ten seats, they could once again prop up the Tories and keep Boris Johnson as prime minister.
Second, although Labour would lose seats (presumably over its Brexit stance) the gains for for the Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats could offer the party a chance to form a rainbow coalition of all progressive parties.

Expectations for sterling volatility at highest level since December 2018

Traders are bracing for further volatility in the UK currency with talk of a snap election hotting up.

Options markets, in which investors speculate on or hedge against currency moves, are pricing-in the greatest volatility over a three-month period since December 2018, according to Bloomberg data.

The rise in so-called implied volatility comes as market participants struggle to handicap what will come next in Britain's Brexit saga. Several banks have recently increased the odds they forecast of a no-deal Brexit, but most still see the probability of such an outcome as less than 50/50. Other potential options include the withdrawal bill as negotiated by Theresa May's government eventually passing, another Brexit extension, and no Brexit at all.

Ministers arrive at Downing Street for cabinet meeting

Ministers have arrived at Downing Street ahead of an emergency cabinet meeting called by Boris Johnson which has intensified speculation about the possibility of an imminent general election.

Following the news earlier that the prime minister had called a meeting of his cabinet, bookmaker Paddy Power stopped taking bets on an election happening.

Where do we go from here?

As the prime minister chairs a hastily arranged cabinet meeting, and with parliament set to leap back into action tomorrow, it is worth taking a step back to consider where things stand - and what could happen ahead of parliament being suspended next week.

To this end, the folks at Capital Economics have put together this handy flowchart:

Government balks at publishing no-deal contingency plan

After the Sunday Times published a leaked version of it anyway, Michael Gove had been expected to publish a watered-down version of Operation Yellowhammer, the government's no-deal Brexit contingency plan.

Now our chief political editor George Parker has unearthed the news that Michael Gove, minister for no-deal planning, has decided to keep it all under wraps.

Mr Gove had been expected to publish extracts of the document on Tuesday as part of his efforts to prepare the UK for the possibility of Brexit taking place without an agreement on October 31, George writes.

Government officials had worked throughout the weekend overhauling the Operation Yellowhammer document, and Mr Gove had hoped to use the work to prove that he had a grip on potential no-deal problems, George writes.

But instead, it was decided that even the watered-down version of the document could alarm the public.

Read the full story here.

Boris Johnson to speak at 6pm

Well, its been a hectic day. A cross-party group of rebel MPs has been finalising plans to block a no-deal Brexit when parliament returns tomorrow and Conservative MP David Gauke has accused Boris Johnson of "goading" lawmakers who do not agree with him to quit.

Mr Johnson, despite calls from across all the main Westminster parties not to prorogue parliament and to set out his plans for negotiating the Irish backstop, has responded so far today by unveiling his new rescue puppy and taking tea with actress Barbara Windsor.

The prime minister will now, however, address the nation from Downing Street at 6pm.

Will he call a snap election?

Rebels push for Article 50 extension to January 2020

The content of the bill being proposed by rebel MPs has been released online by Labour MP, Hilary Benn, who is presenting the legislation to parliament.

The key element of the bill, writes the FT's Jim Pickard, is the request for an extension to the end of January 2020 if the UK does not vote through a deal by mid-October.

It is really striking to see the names of former chancellor Philip Hammond and former justice secretary David Gauke alongside MPs from the Labour, Green, SNP and Plaid Cymru parties.

Rebels' bill would tie UK to any extension proposed by Brussels

Parsing the details of the bill by the anti-no-deal MPs, there is one particularly notable section, writes Seb Payne. In paragraph two of section three, the "rebel alliance" state that if the EU proposes a different Brexit extension to their proposal of January 2020, then the UK will have to agree to it:

If the European Council decides to agree an extension of the period in Article 50(3) of the Treasury on European Union ending at 11:00pm on 31 October 2019, but to a date other than 11:00pm on 31 January 2020, the Prime Minister must, within a period of two days beginning with the end of the day on which the European Council's decision is made, or before the end of 30 October 2019, whichever is sooner, notify the President of the European Council that the United Kingdom agrees to the proposed extension.

Expect this to be painted by Downing Street as handing the keys to the UK's future over to Brussels, as the prime minister would be forced by law to accept any extension date.

Johnson: I do not want an election

Mr Johnson says he wants to get out of Europe on October 31, but that he does not want an election.

He accuses potential rebel MPs who want an extension to the Brexit date of trying to "cut the legs" off the government's negotiating strategy with Brussels.

Other quotes from the rest of his short speech:

"The chances of a deal have been rising."

"Brussels can see we want a deal.".

"They can see that we are utterly determined to strengthen our position by getting ready to come out regardless, come what may."

There is a "sense in Brussels" that MPs may "find some way to cancel the referendum."

But MPs should not, he argued, "vote with Jeremy Corbyn for yet another pointless delay."
"There are no circumstances [under] which I will ask Brussels to delay."

So Mr Johnson has pitched the row within his party as a group of Conservative MPs going over to work with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Meanwhile, speculation about Mr Johnson calling for an election later this week is unlikely to be quelled by this speech.

Mr Johnson not only unveiled pictures of his new puppy today, he also kicked off this speech by reminding the public of his plans to put extra resources into education and policing. Will he call a rapid election, if he has to, ahead of the October 31 deadline?

Pound unchanged as Johnson damps election speculation

Sterling was little changed after the prime minister spoke, downplaying the Westminster speculation that an election was imminent.

“I don’t want an election. You don’t want an election,” Boris Johnson told reporters on the steps of Downing Street.

Sterling was down 0.8 per cent on the day at $1.2062 after Mr Johnson’s remarks, barely shifting from beforehand. Against the euro it was down 0.7 per cent at €1.0995.

Johnson opens the door to an election

Mr Johnson's speech might have seemed underwhelming, given some of the rumours and briefings in Westminster today, our Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne writes.

But, in fact, the prime minister has opened the door a crack to a general election in the next couple of weeks.

The key line in Mr Johnson's brief statement outside Downing Street was "I don’t want an election, you don’t want an election". Note the use of the word "want" - that does not mean it will not happen, simply that it is not something the prime minister is actively seeking.

If MPs thwart his Brexit strategy on Tuesday or Wednesday, expect him to return to that same podium and toughen up the language.

‘Hot air’ and ‘bluster’: MPs react to prime minister’s speech

Opposition politicians have been taking to Twitter to react to the prime minister’s speech, in which he played down election speculation and said progress was being made towards striking a new deal with Brussels.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson dismissed the remarks as “hot air”. “What was that @BorisJohnson statement all about? His press people had spun that he’d threaten to call an election. Has he changed his mind?,” he tweeted.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said the statement made it “plainly obvious” the prime minister had “no plan to get a deal”, while the Greens’ Caroline Lucas described it as “more bluster”. “The truth is he's about to lose this week's vote in Parliament and is running scared,” she tweeted.

Scottish opposition to prorogation of parliament

The Scottish government's top law officer has applied to join two cases seeking to stop prime minister Boris Johnson from suspending parliament to blunt opposition to a no-deal Brexit, writes the FT's Mure Dickie.

The Scottish government said James Wolffe, lord advocate, had lodged an application to join a petition against the prorogation of parliament that will be heard in Edinburgh's Court of Session on Tuesday. He has also applied to join a separate application for judicial review of Mr Johnson's proroguing plan in England that will be heard on Thursday.

An initial decision on the Scottish petition is expected on Wednesday, with the almost inevitable appeal to be heard by Court of Session's Inner House to be heard later this week.

The Scottish government said the lord advocate would contend that prorogation was an abuse of executive power that prevented parliamentary scrutiny.

Johnson ups Brexit ante

Boris Johnson has significantly upped the ante for tomorrow’s efforts by MPs to stop a no-deal Brexit with the threat of a snap general election next month, writes Seb Payne.

Senior Johnson government officials have confirmed that if MPs succeed in taking control of the House of Commons order paper on Tuesday - in an effort to introduce legislation to force the government to delay Brexit - Mr Johnson will put forward a motion to dissolve parliament and hold a snap general election on October 14. ‬

The motion, which would be voted on Wednesday, would be under the Fixed Term Parliament Act - the same method used by Theresa May to call a snap election in 2017.

This requires a “supermajority” to pass - two-thirds of MPs would have to vote to bring down the government. It’s over now to Labour and the Liberal Democrats as to whether they will back calls for an election.

Government sources insist that Mr Johnson does not “want” to hold a general election, but also that he will not have his hands tied by parliament or Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

So this is a clear threat from the prime minister: take Brexit out of my hands, and I’ll go to the country to get a mandate to do it my way.

Another day of drama tomorrow

Mr Johnson’s ultimatum sets up a day of drama on Tuesday at Westminster as MPs return to the Commons from their summer recess and vote on whether to seize control of the Brexit process from the prime minister, writes the FT's George Parker.

About 15-20 Conservative MPs could work with Labour and other opposition parties to seize control of the Commons agenda and pass an emergency law to stop Mr Johnson taking Britain out of the EU without a deal.

The prime minister will meet Tory MPs in the coming hours to try to head off the rebellion but if the anti-no-deal group, led by former chancellor Philip Hammond, holds firm, Mr Johnson faces defeat.

Mr Johnson said the move would “wreck” his negotiating strategy because other EU leaders would think that parliament was determined to halt Brexit. He has threatened to purge Tory rebels from the party.

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