LONDON: In a major setback to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, UK lawmakers voted on Saturday to postpone a decision on whether to back his Brexit deal with the European Union (EU), throwing a wrench into government plans to leave the bloc at the end of this month.
The prime minister is now required by law to ask the EU to delay Britain’s departure, currently scheduled for October 31. But a defiant Johnson said he still aimed to meet the deadline and would not “negotiate” a postponement with the EU. The bloc said it would wait to hear from the British government about what it wanted to do next.
British MPs on Saturday voted to delay a decision on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, arguing they needed more time to study its contents before an October 31 deadline. Lawmakers backed an amendment which effectively forces the government to request an extension until January next year, while they scrutinised the proposed domestic legislation to enforce the deal with Brussels. If a deal is not approved by parliament by the end of Saturday, Johnson is required by law to ask the European Union for a three-month delay to Brexit.
“I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so. I will tell our friends and colleagues in the EU exactly what I have told everyone else in the last 88 days that I have served as prime minister: that further delay would be bad for this country, bad for the European Union and bad for democracy.”
Boris Johnson after the vote.
The speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow said he would rule on Monday if he will allow the government to put forward a vote on Prime Minister Johnson’s Brexit deal.There is a convention in parliament that the same question cannot be put twice during the same session.
“I will reflect on it and give what I hope is a fully considered ruling on this matter on Monday. I will do so of course having taken advice in appropriate quarters,” Bercow told parliament, when asked by lawmakers whether this was allowed.”The government is not the arbiter of what is orderly.”
If Parliament approves the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in time, Britain could still leave by the end of October. The government plans to introduce the bill next week and could hold late-night sittings of Parliament in hope of getting it passed within days.
Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, failed three times to get lawmakers behind her Brexit plan.
His hopes of getting the deal through Parliament were dealt a blow when his Northern Ireland ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, said it would not back him. The party says Johnson’s Brexit package – which carves out special status for Northern Ireland to keep an open border with EU member Ireland – is bad for the region and weakens its bonds with the rest of the UK.
To make up for the votes of 10 DUP lawmakers, Johnson has tried to persuade members of the left-of-center Labour Party to support the deal. Late Friday the government promised to bolster protections for the environment and workers’ rights to allay Labour fears that the Conservative government plans to slash those protections after Brexit.