British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered another blow Wednesday when the House of Commons voted in favor of a measure forcing the government to ask the EU to delay Brexit another three months if there is no exit deal by Johnson’s October 31 deadline. The measure now goes to Parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords.
This was Johnson’s second major Brexit defeat in two days.
A number of Conservatives joined opposition lawmakers Tuesday in voting to seize the Brexit matter from Johnson.
The prime minister says lawmakers have taken away his ability to be able to negotiate with the EU.
“It’s therefore a bill without precedent in the history of this house, seeking as it does to force the prime minister with a pre-drafted letter to surrender in international negotiations,” Johnson said Wednesday.
“I refuse to do this … this house has left no other option than letting the public decide who they want as prime minister.”
Johnson says he will propose October 15 as the date for a new election, but it is uncertain whether the motion will pass. He would need the backing of two-thirds of Britain’s 650 members of Parliament to trigger a poll.
U.S. President Donald Trump expressed confidence in Johnson, saying “he knows how to win.” He added, “Don’t worry about him. He’s going to be ok.”
British economists say leaving the EU without a deal would create havoc to the British economy and possibly bring on a recession.
Even if lawmakers succeed in thwarting Johnson, the Brexit endgame is far from over. An election sometime this year may be the most likely outcome of the arcane parliamentary maneuvers this week, one that could see Britain’s storied Conservative Party split, with several former ministers, including a former deputy prime minister, forming a breakaway independent Conservative Party.
It isn’t often that opposition parties seek to avoid a general election, but Monday Johnson’s rivals met and agreed to make as their priority the passing of legislation to prevent a so-called no-deal Brexit, rather than trying to oust the country’s minority Conservative government and trigger an election.
Pro-EU lawmakers, and others who fear the economic damage of a no-deal Brexit, say Johnson could subsequently shift the election to after Oct. 31, the date for Britain to leave the EU without a deal. That would snatch from the Commons the chance to thwart him by asking Brussels to extend the so-called Article 50 deadline set for Britain to relinquish membership of the EU.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labor Party who previously had wanted an early election, has also signed on to the unity move by the other opposition parties and Conservative rebels, saying, “We are working together to stop this government crashing out on the 31st of October.”