UK lawmakers vote to delay final Brexit decision, again

Saturday, October 19, 2019

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LONDON, United Kingdom (AP) — In major blow to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, UK lawmakers voted 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.

At a rare weekend sitting of Parliament, lawmakers voted 322-306 to withhold their approval on the Brexit deal until legislation to implement it has been passed.

The vote aims to ensure that the UK cannot crash out of the EU without a divorce deal on the scheduled departure date. Johnson, who struck the agreement with the EU earlier this week, said he was not "daunted or dismayed" by the result and would push ahead.

He implied he would request a three-month delay as required but argued against any postponement.

"I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so," Johnson said. "I will tell our friends and colleagues in the EU exactly what I've told everyone in the last 88 days that I've served as prime minister: that further delay would be bad for this country, bad for the European Union and bad for democracy."

Parliament's first weekend sitting since the Falklands War of 1982 had been dubbed "Super Saturday." It looked set to bring Britain's Brexit saga to a head, more than three years after the country's divisive decision to leave the EU.

But the government's hopes were derailed when House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said he would allow a vote on an amendment that puts the vote on the deal off until another day.

The amendment makes support for the deal conditional on the legislation to implement it being passed by Parliament, something that could take several days or weeks. It also gives lawmakers another chance to scrutinize — and possibly change— the Brexit departure terms while the legislation is passing through Parliament.

The government still hopes it can pass the needed legislation by the end of the month so the UK can leave on time.

The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said the government would hold a debate Monday on its Brexit-implementing legislation — effectively a second attempt to secure approval for the deal.

It's unclear whether that would be allowed under House of Commons rules against holding repeated votes on the same question. Bercow said he would make a ruling on Monday.

Opposition lawmakers warned that Johnson must ask for the Brexit extension or face legal consequences.

"Any failure of a prime minister who thinks he is above the law — well, prime minister, you'll find yourself in court," said Ian Blackford of the Scottish National Party.


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