Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathered his Conservative party what could be its final conference before an election, with the gathering set to be dominated by Brexit.
Despite a string of parliamentary setbacks and a defeat in the Supreme Court, Johnson insists he will take Britain out of the European Union, with or without a deal, on October 31.
His stance has put him at odds with the House of Commons, which has passed a law blocking a “no deal” exit, and lost him a number of his own MPs.
But it resonates with many pro-Brexit voters and particularly with Conservative party members who elected him in July, and are expected to give him a hero’s welcome.
The conference “will be a rally for Boris Johnson and a rally for Brexit”, predicted Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London.
The four-day meeting in Manchester, northwest England, however risks being disrupted by parliamentary business back in London.
MPs were furious at Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament for five weeks in early September — a move the Supreme Court quashed on Tuesday — and refused to agree to the normal conference recess.
Opposition parties are threatening as yet unspecified manoeuvres that could force ministers to race back to parliament over the coming days.
But in what will be seen as a snub to MPs, Johnson will deliver his closing speech as planned on Wednesday, when he should be answering questions in the Commons.
Johnson has had a turbulent two months in office, having suffered seven successive defeats in the Commons — in the process losing his majority.