Parliament vote forces Britain to ask for Brexit delay, raising uncertainties

2019-10-21 02:17:17 GMT2019-10-21 10:17:17(Beijing Time) Xinhua English
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the House of Commons in London, Britain on Oct. 19, 2019. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/Handout via Xinhua) HOC MANDATORY CREDIT: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the House of Commons in London, Britain on Oct. 19, 2019. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/Handout via Xinhua) HOC MANDATORY CREDIT: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to write to the European Union (EU) late Saturday seeking another Brexit extension after MPs voted to postpone ratification of his divorce deal with the bloc.

By 322 to 306, lawmakers supported an amendment put forward by independent MP Oliver Letwin that will withhold parliamentary approval of Johnson's deal "unless and until implementing legislation is passed."

AMENDMENT FORCES BREXIT DELAY

Before Johnson kicked off a rare Saturday sitting of the House of Commons, he had tried hard to persuade MPs to back his deal. But things went wrong when a vote was called on an amendment to Johnson's deal.

Letwin told MPs that his move was to keep in place the insurance policy provided by an earlier act of parliament to prevent Britain from automatically crashing out of the EU if no deal is in place by Oct. 31.

Passions ran high as MPs from both remain and leave camps pleaded for their respective corners.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Northern Ireland-based Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) were among the strongest critics of Johnson's deal.

Ian Blackford, the SNP's leader at Westminster, said: "Scotland has been totally and utterly shafted by this prime minister and this Conservative government, being dragged out of the European Union against its will."

The DUP's Sammy Wilson said that Johnson's deal would cut off Northern Ireland from the country "to which we belong," a reference to the planned frontier down the Irish Sea between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

Their comments were counterbalanced by Johnson's predecessor Theresa May, who said that "I intend to rebel against all those who do not want to vote to deliver Brexit."

"Every member in this house has a responsibility in the decision that they will take to determine whether or not they are going to put the national interest first," May said.

Five hours after the debates started, MPs voted to back Letwin's amendment. One political commentator said it was as though a hand grenade had been thrown to wreck Johnson's plans.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described it as an "emphatic decision" by the Commons, which declined to back the prime minister's deal and clearly voted to stop a no-deal crash-out from the EU.

Many of the hundreds of thousands of people who gathered outside the Houses of Parliament in their campaign for a new referendum, or people's vote, cheered as the result of the vote was announced.

NOT DAUNTED OR DISMAYED

After the vote, Johnson told MPs that "the opportunity for a meaningful vote has effectively been passed up."

Johnson, who famously said he would rather die in a ditch than ask Brussels for an extension, added he was not "daunted or dismayed" by the result.

"I continue in the very strong belief that the best thing for the UK and the whole of Europe is for us to leave with this new deal on Oct. 31," he said.

He said he would tell Brussels that a further delay would be bad for Britain, bad for the EU and bad for democracy.

Johnson said that next week, the government will introduce the legislation needed for Britain to leave the EU with their new deal on Oct. 31.

The House decision means Johnson has a legal duty to seek the extension of Britain's membership.

Corbyn said: "The prime minister must now comply with the law. He can no longer use the threat of a no-deal crash-out to blackmail MPs to support his sell-out deal."

Leader of the Commons, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, told MPs that in the light of the decision, the House of Commons on Monday will debate on a motion related to the EU withdrawal act.

PROSPECT

After the parliament decision, analysts said there is still a chance for Britain to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but the time frame is tight.

Downing Street is eager to secure more debates on Monday, and even another vote on the Brexit deal, in the hope of still winning backing from MPs so that Britain can leave the EU at the end of this month.

Even if Britain wants an extension of its EU membership, it will be up to member states of the bloc to decide if this should be granted. It will only need one country to withhold consent, to force Britain to leave the EU with or without a deal on Oct. 31.

Brussels said Saturday it was up to the British government to make the next move after the developments in the House of Commons.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, tweeted Saturday that "the extension request has just arrived. I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react."

Ambassadors from the remaining 27 EU member states are to meet on Sunday to discuss the latest developments in London.

In London, Brussels, Dublin and Glasgow, politicians and their advisers will spend Sunday preparing for what happens on Monday when the next phase of the long-running Brexit saga is played out before a worldwide audience.

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