UK PM loses elec­tion bid as EU backs Brexit de­lay

John­son to push again for poll after Com­mons de­feat

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

LONDON (AFP) — Bri­tish MPs on Mon­day de­feated yet an­other at­tempt by Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son to force an early elec­tion, just hours after the Euro­pean Union agreed to post­pone Brexit for up to three months.

The Con­ser­va­tive leader im­me­di­ately an­nounced an al­ter­na­tive plan to hold a snap poll that could yet see an elec­tion in early De­cem­ber.

John­son suf­fered a ma­jor set­back ear­lier Mon­day when he was forced to agree to de­lay Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union be­yond this week’s Oct. 31 dead­line.

He had pre­vi­ously said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ex­tend the tor­tu­ous Brexit process started by the 2016 EU ref­er­en­dum.

But he was forced by law to ask EU lead­ers for what is the third post­pone­ment, after MPs re­fused to en­dorse the di­vorce terms he struck with Brus­sels ear­lier this month.

Am­bas­sadors from the other 27 EU mem­ber states agreed to the re­quest on Mon­day but pro­posed that Bri­tain could leave ear­lier if the deal is rat­i­fied.

John­son sought to re­gain the ini­tia­tive by call­ing an elec­tion for Dec. 12, with a plan to per­suade MPs to back his agree­ment be­fore then.

His ini­tial pro­posal was de­feated late Mon­day in the 650-seat House of Com­mons, as he failed to muster the re­quired two-thirds ma­jor­ity.

But he im­me­di­ately put for­ward a sec­ond plan to leg­is­late for a poll on Dec. 12 — which would re­quire only a sim­ple ma­jor­ity to pass.

“This house can­not any longer keep this coun­try hostage,” John­son told MPs.

He added: “We have a great new (Brexit) deal, and it’s time for vot­ers to have a chance to pro­nounce on that deal and to re­place this dys­func­tional par­lia­ment with a new par­lia­ment that can get Brexit done.”

Flex­ten­sion

The EU’s ap­proval came just three days be­fore the lat­est Brexit dead­line, a de­ci­sion held up by skep­ti­cism in

France about giv­ing yet more time to a deeply di­vided Bri­tish par­lia­ment.

“The EU27 has agreed that it will ac­cept the U.K.’s re­quest for a Brexit flex­ten­sion un­til 31 Jan­uary 2020,” Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk said.

John­son ac­cepted the of­fer in a letter to Tusk and other EU lead­ers a few hours later, but made clear his re­luc­tance.

He urged EU mem­bers states “to make clear that a fur­ther ex­ten­sion after Jan. 31 is not pos­si­ble. This is plenty of time to rat­ify our deal.”

Ac­cord­ing to a copy of the agree­ment seen by AFP, if John­son con­vinces MPs to ap­prove an am­i­ca­ble di­vorce ac­cord in the com­ing weeks, Brexit could be on Nov. 30 or Dec. 31.

This is not im­pos­si­ble — MPs last week backed John­son’s deal in prin­ci­ple but re­fused to rush through its rat­i­fi­ca­tion be­fore Oct. 31.

How­ever, the leg­is­la­tion re­quired to im­ple­ment the treaty could get bogged down in the scru­tiny process, and some sup­port­ers could yet change their minds.

In the mean­time, the EU text says London must nom­i­nate a se­nior of­fi­cial to serve on the next Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and must agree not to try to re­open the di­vorce agree­ment.

After London gave its for­mal ap­proval, Tusk will ask the EU cap­i­tals to sign off on it, likely on Tues­day or Wed­nes­day.

Elec­tion wran­gling

More than three years after Bri­tons voted 52-48 per­cent for Brexit in a 2016 ref­er­en­dum the coun­try and par­lia­ment re­main deeply di­vided over when, how and even whether to leave the EU.

John­son has tried twice be­fore to force an elec­tion to break the po­lit­i­cal im­passe.

The main op­po­si­tion Labour party dis­likes John­son’s Brexit deal and says it will not back an elec­tion un­til his threat of leav­ing the EU with no deal at all is re­moved.

“This is a prime min­is­ter who can­not be trusted,” Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn told par­lia­ment. “Ev­ery promise this prime min­is­ter makes he aban­dons.”

Some MPs fear that if the deal does not pass par­lia­ment, John­son might de­lay an elec­tion un­til Fe­bru­ary, risk­ing a “no deal” exit that many fear would cause huge eco­nomic dis­rup­tion.

After los­ing Mon­day’s vote, the premier an­nounced he would in­tro­duce a bill on Tues­day to leg­is­late for an elec­tion, which would en­shrine a date in law.

Two smaller par­ties, the Scot­tish Na­tional Party and the Lib­eral Democrats, had ear­lier of­fered their own sim­i­lar bill for a Dec. elec­tion.

SNP West­min­ster leader Ian Black­ford said John­son’s leg­is­la­tion must guar­an­tee that he will not try to rat­ify his Brexit deal be­fore any elec­tion.

“We don’t trust this prime min­is­ter,” he said.

AP-Yon­hap

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son and his ad­viser Do­minic Cum­mings, left, leave 10 Down­ing Street in London, and get in a car to­gether to go to the Houses of Par­lia­ment, Mon­day.

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