Johnson says he'll pull Brexit Bill if lawmakers force delay

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

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LONDON, United Kingdom (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was headed for a showdown Tuesday with lawmakers who want to put the brakes on his drive to push his European Union divorce bill through the House of Commons in just three days and take Britain out of the European Union by October 31.

Johnson said that if Parliament imposes a longer timetable and "decides to delay everything until January or possibly longer," he will withdraw the Bill and call a vote on holding a snap general election.

"I will in no way allow months more of this," said Johnson, who took power in July vowing that the UK will leave the EU on October 31, come what may. His only hope of doing that is to pass the Brexit-implementing Bill through Britain's fractious Parliament before then.

Johnson's announcement piles pressure on lawmakers as they consider whether to approve the government's legislation, which would finally take Britain out of the EU — more than three years after voters opted to leave the bloc.

The bill faces two votes Tuesday, with lawmakers first being asked to approve it in principle, followed by a vote on the government's schedule for debate and possible amendments.

Johnson said backing the bill would allow lawmakers to "turn the page and allow this Parliament and this country to begin to heal and unite."

While many analysts expect the Bill to be approved, lawmakers may reject the three-day timetable because of concerns it doesn't provide enough time for scrutiny of the 115-page document, which sets out the terms of Britain's departure from the 28-nation bloc.

Major bills usually take weeks or months to pass through Parliament, giving time for line-by-line scrutiny by lawmakers.

Green lawmaker Caroline Lucas tweeted that lawmakers "had more time to debate the Wild Animals in Circuses Act (affecting 19 animals) than they will to decide the future of 65 million people. It's hard to think of anything which better illustrates this Govt's contempt for people, Parliament & democracy."

Ominously for the government, some lawmakers who support the Brexit deal said they would vote against the short timetable.

"Unless you are prepared to contemplate more expansive debate, there is not the slightest possibility of considering the deal that has been obtained within the time available," Ken Clarke, a senior lawmaker recently ousted from Johnson's Conservative Party group in Parliament, told the Guardian newspaper.

The showdown comes just nine days before Britain's scheduled departure date. Johnson's government had sought a "straight up-and-down vote" Monday on the agreement he struck last week with the 27 other EU nations laying out the terms of Britain's exit.

But the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, refused to allow it because lawmakers voted to delay approving the Brexit deal on Saturday, and parliamentary rules bar the same measure from being considered a second time during a session of Parliament unless something has changed.

Bercow's ruling plunged the tortuous Brexit process back into grimly familiar territory: acrimonious uncertainty.

Johnson's Conservatives hold just 288 of the 650 House of Commons seats, so he will need support from opposition and independent lawmakers to pass the bill — if, that is, Parliament approves the timetable on Tuesday.

The bill turns the deal Johnson struck with the EU into law. It sets out the terms of Britain's departure, including measures to maintain an open border between the UK's Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. It also enshrines the right of UK and EU citizens living in the other's territory to continue with their lives, and sets out the multi-billion pound (dollar) payments Britain must make to meet its financial obligations to the EU.


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