LABOUR has been accused of being at “sixes and sevens” over Brexit as a growing alignment between Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon and Jo Swinson puts Britain on course for a pre-Christmas General Election.

After Brussels agreed a so-called “flextension” to Brexit to January 31 at the latest, the Prime Minister’s bid to hold a poll on December 12, under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (FTPA) failed as expected.

While 299 MPs voted for the motion and only 70 opposed it – Labour on the whole abstained – the result failed to reach the two-thirds majority required under the legislation.

However, after the SNP and Liberal Democrats came together to back an election on December 9, last night the UK Government moved to table its own one-clause bill to amend the FTPA to call for a poll three days later on December 12. 

The crucial difference is this route only requires a simple majority and not the two-thirds one under the current legislation. 

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The SNP and LibDems made clear they would only support a pre-Christmas poll if the UK Government did not seek to pursue its Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) before Parliament was dissolved for an election.

Following last Monday night’s vote, a Downing Street source explained: “Tonight, we are laying a one-clause motion to amend the FTPA and call an election with the named day of December 12. The bill is very similar to the Lib Dem/SNP bill.” 

He then added: “The WAB will not be put back. This is the way to get Brexit done, so the country can move on.”

Earlier yesterday on Monday, both senior Nationalist and LibDem sources suggested their respective parties would not have a problem if the Government sought to push through timing was not regarded as a barrier to agreement.

Last night, the leaderships of the two opposition parties reacted cautiously to the Government’s latest move.

Ms Swinson stressed how Mr Johnson could have supported her own party’s push for a December 9 election if he had wanted to go to the country but stressed she would “look at the details” of his latest proposal.

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Kirsty Blackman, the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, insisted she did not trust the PM and that her party would not be “dancing to Boris Johnson’s tune” on his demand for a poll on December 12 but, again, she did not rule out supporting the Government proposal. 

Labour, meanwhile, reacted coolly to Mr Johnson’s latest bid to get a pre-Christmas election.

Andy McDonald, the Shadow Transport Secretary, said the proposed December 12 election would “disenfranchise” voters, including students and cause the electorate “immense” difficulties getting to the polls.

Asked if Labour would rule out a winter election, he told Sky News: “It’s very unwise to be having a general election in the run-up to Christmas. If it comes, it comes. We will get on with it and we will take our proposals to the people.”

It is thought under the December 12 election plan Parliament would have to be dissolved by a week on Wednesday. MPs are keen to allow the Commons to sit past this week to facilitate the election of a new Speaker before dissolution; John Bercow is due to step down on Thursday.

While Labour, following a meeting of the Shadow Cabinet, decided to abstain on the Government’s bid for a pre-Christmas poll under the FTPA, it put off a decision on the one-clause bill option until another Shadow Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

During Monday’s meeting of Jeremy Corbyn’s frontline team, Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, reportedly tore into Labour MPs opposed to an election, saying the Parliamentary Labour Party could “go f*** themselves”.

However later, the Shadow Home Secretary took to Twitter to stress: “What I actually said in Shadow Cabinet today: ‘In the run-up to 2017 election, some Labour MPs were crying in my office and in the tearoom as if it’s a f***ing funeral, saying Jeremy should stand down, then they all got re-elected with increased majorities.”

One Conservative MP told The Herald: “Labour is completely at sixes and sevens over its approach to Brexit. They clearly divided and it’s now up to the Government to end this broken Parliament and let the people decide on the way ahead.”

Another Tory backbencher added: “The public has just given up on Jeremy Corbyn, who has shown a total lack of leadership.”

During Commons exchanges on the Government’s first attempt to get a December 12 poll, Mr Johnson told MPs the country could “not continue with this endless delay” as he accused Mr Corbyn of “coming up with ever more ludicrous excuses for hiding from the British people”.

Claiming the Labour leader was “snookered,” the PM declared: “He can run but he cannot hide forever,” as he noted how the SNP and Lib Dems were now backing a snap election. 

“What an incredible state of affairs that there is one party tonight that is actually against a general election. There is one party that does not trust the people of this country and that is the principal party of opposition.”

But Mr Corbyn hit back, saying Mr Johnson was a “prime minister who cannot be trusted,” pointing out how he had abandoned a Queen’s Speech, a Budget and a Withdrawal Bill after Second Reading.

“He says he wants an election on December 12, though how can we trust him that he will stick to that date when we do not yet have legal confirmation of the extension? The reason I’m so cautious is quite simply, I do not trust the Prime Minister.”

Ian Blackford for the SNP made clear his party would support the Lib Dems’ plan for an election before Brexit could happen but with no reintroduction of the WAB “because given the way some Labour MPs voted we cannot trust Labour to block the bill in future”.

He added: “We cannot allow the Prime Minister to railroad through this disastrous so-called deal.”

In other developments, Government sources confirmed the Operation Yellowhammer no-deal planning had been pulled and the £100 million “Get Ready” ad campaign paused.

It was also suggested thousands of 50-pence coins minted to commemorate Brexit on October 31 will be melted down following the acceptance of the January 31 extension from the EU.