Boris Johnson inches toward securing Brexit but delay likely

LONDON — For a brief moment Tuesday, Brexit was within a British prime minister’s grasp.

Boris Johnson won Parliament’s backing for the substance of his exit deal but lost a key vote on its timing, a result that inches him closer to his goal of leading his country out of the European Union — but effectively guarantees it won’t happen on the scheduled date of Oct. 31.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that because of the vote he would recommend that the other 27 EU nations grant Britain a delay in its departure to avoid a chaotic no-deal exit in just nine days.

The good news for the prime minister was that lawmakers — for the first time since Britons chose in 2016 to leave the EU — voted in principle for a Brexit plan, backing by 329-299 a bill to implement the agreement Johnson struck with the EU last week.

But minutes later, legislators rejected his fast-track timetable to pass the bill, saying they needed more time to scrutinize it. The vote went 322-308 against the government.

Tuesday’s votes plunge the tortuous Brexit process back into grimly familiar territory: acrimonious uncertainty.

Without speedy passage of the bill, Britain won’t be able to make an orderly exit from the bloc on Oct. 31, the central vow of Johnson’s three-month-old administration.

Looking on the bright side, Johnson hailed the fact that “for the first time in this long saga this House has actually accepted its responsibilities together, come together, and embraced a deal.”

“One way or another we will leave the EU with this deal to which this House has just given its assent,” he said — though he also said the government would “accelerate” preparations for a no-deal outcome because of the uncertainty.

Johnson had hoped to push the legislation through the House of Commons by Thursday. But he said after the defeat that he would “pause” the bill until the EU had decided whether to agree to delay Britain’s departure.

On Tuesday night, Tusk tweeted that he would recommend that the bloc grant Britain’s request for an extension to the Oct. 31 deadline. He did not say how long a delay he would recommend, although the U.K.’s request was to postpone exit until Jan. 31.

That request came grudgingly from Johnson last week to comply with a law passed by Parliament ordering the government to postpone Brexit rather than risk the economic damage that could come from a no-deal exit.

Any delay will still require the agreement of all of the other 27 EU member states, and they are deeply weary of the long-running Brexit saga. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French lawmakers Tuesday that he sees “no justification” at this stage for a further delay.

But they also want to avoid the economic pain on both sides of the Channel that would come from a chaotic British exit.

Earlier, Johnson had said he might call a vote on holding a snap general election if Parliament blocked his plans — in the hopes of breaking the political deadlock over Brexit that has dragged on as lawmakers have squabbled over the country’s departure terms. But he’s likely to wait to hear from the EU on the delay request before deciding whether to push for an election.

But before Tuesday’s vote, he said: “I will in no way allow months more of this.”

Last week Johnson struck a divorce deal with the other EU leaders, but on Saturday he failed to win Parliament’s backing for it. His only remaining hope of leaving on time was to get lawmakers to pass the Brexit-implementing bill into law before the scheduled departure date, nine days away.

The Brexit deal sets out the terms of Britain’s departure, including measures to maintain an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. It also enshrines the right of U.K. and EU citizens living in the other’s territory to continue with their lives, and sets out the multibillion pound (dollar) payments Britain must make to meet its financial obligations to the EU.

But the deal does not cover the nitty gritty of future relations between the U.K. and the EU: Instead, it confirms a transition period lasting until at least the end of 2020 — and possibly 2022 — in which relations will remain frozen as they are now while a permanent new relationship is worked out.

If Britain leaves the EU without a deal, there will be no transition period, uncertainty for millions of citizens and a host of new tariffs, customs checks and other barriers to trade on Day 1. Most economists say that would send unemployment rising, the value of the pound plummeting and plunge the U.K. into recession.

Many lawmakers felt that three days was not nearly enough time for scrutiny of the 115-page bill. Major bills usually take weeks or months to pass through Parliament, giving time for line-by-line scrutiny by lawmakers.

Before Tuesday’s votes, 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.”

After the votes, many lawmakers urged Johnson to push ahead with the bill after securing a delay to Brexit. Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn encouraged the prime minister to “work with us all of use to agree a reasonable timetable” for its passage.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, an ardent Brexit supporter, acknowledged that the prospect of an Oct. 31 Brexit now seemed remote.

“Impossible is a very strong word, but it is very hard to see how it is possible,” he said.

___

Associated Press writers Gregory Katz in London and Lorne Cook and Sam Petrequin in Brussels contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

Jill Lawless And Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

The Mustard Seed to launch new wellness centre in Red Deer

A new service is coming to Red Deer to help the city’s… Continue reading

Penhold firefighters handle ‘difficult’ blaze

Penhold firefighters battled a “difficult” blaze Friday afternoon. Fire crews were called… Continue reading

Clearwater County firefighter recruitment campaign deemed a success

A firefighter recruitment campaign is being considered a success by Clearwater County.… Continue reading

Dems say oust Trump or he’ll betray again; ‘He is who he is’

WASHINGTON — Closing out their case, House Democrats warned Friday in Donald… Continue reading

Senators may have to rein in activism in minority Parliament: new govt rep

OTTAWA — Independent senators may have to curb their enthusiasm for amending… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: The basics you need for your body type

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Feb. 1 A Jump Rope Competition will be held at the Abbey… Continue reading

St. John’s, N.L., lifts state of emergency eight days after massive storm

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The City of St. John’s has lifted a… Continue reading

Former cabinet minister Peter MacKay announces Tory leadership bid

STELLARTON, N.S. — Former federal cabinet minister Peter MacKay says he will… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $17 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $17 million jackpot… Continue reading

French doctor: Virus from China seems less serious than SARS

PARIS — The lead doctor treating two Paris hospital patients for the… Continue reading

Trump lawyer says Dems want to ‘overturn’ last election

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s lawyers opened their impeachment trial defence Saturday… Continue reading

Democratic candidates pour into Iowa for last-minute push

DES MOINES, Iowa — Freed momentarily from the Senate’s impeachment trial, several… Continue reading

Europe’s bishops mark Auschwitz anniversary denouncing hate

WARSAW, Poland — Europe’s Catholic bishops are marking the 75th anniversary of… Continue reading

Most Read