British MPs gave their initial approval Tuesday to legislation enacting Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s EU divorce deal but rejected his plan to rush it through parliament, opening the door for yet another Brexit delay.
Johnson immediately announced he would pause the process of trying to ratify the text he struck with European Union leaders last week, and said the EU should consider Britain’s request for a delay beyond October 31.
Responding to the vote, European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said European Council president Donald Tusk was consulting EU leaders about a possible postponement.
Johnson won a significant victory when the House of Commons voted by 329 to 299 to approve in principal a bill that implements his Brexit deal.
But just minutes later, MPs rejected by 322 to 308 his timetable motion demanding they push through the bill in three days to allow Britain’s departure at the end of this month.
Johnson has vowed to stick to the October 31 date and said Britain would step up preparations in case of a disorderly “no deal” exit.
On Saturday, he was forced to ask EU leaders to delay Brexit after MPs refused to approve his deal — despite having once said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than see the deadline postponed.
Ratifying the bill before October 31 would have allowed him to avoid this legally mandated delay, which was set provisionally at three months but is open for EU leaders to amend.
With speedy ratification now in doubt, a postponement seems likely.
“The EU must now make up their minds over how to answer parliament’s request for a delay,” Johnson told MPs.
He added: “I will speak to EU member states about their intentions. Until they have reached a decision, until we have reached a decision I will say, we will pause this legislation.
“Let me be clear our policy remains that we should not delay, that we should leave the European Union on October 31. That is what I will say to the EU.”
Ahead of the vote, Johnson warned he would seek an election to break the political deadlock, although this requires the support of the Labour party.