Par­lia­ment vote post­pones Brexit

PM John­son asks EU for de­lay, but ar­gues against it

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jill Lawless and Raf Casert

Boris John­son grudg­ingly asks EUto de­lay Brexit af­ter Par­lia­ment post­pones a de­ci­sion on whether to back his deal.

LON­DON— Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son grudg­ingly asked the Euro­pean Union late Satur­day to de­lay Brexit af­ter the Bri­tish Par­lia­ment post­poned a de­ci­sion on whether to back his di­vorce deal. But the de­fi­ant John­son also made clear that he per­son­ally op­posed de­lay­ing the U.K.’s exit, sched­uled for Oct. 31.

A law passed by Par­lia­ment last month set a late-night dead­line for the gov­ern­ment to send a letter ask­ing the EU for a three­month post­pone­ment if law­mak­ers had not ap­proved an agree­ment with the bloc by Satur­day. An hour be­fore the dead­line, Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk tweeted: “The ex­ten­sion re­quest has just ar­rived. I will now start con­sult­ing EU lead­ers on howto re­act.”

John­son made clear he was mak­ing the re­quest un­der duress. The letter was not signed. It was ac­com­pa­nied by a sec­ond letter, signed by John­son, ar­gu­ing that de­lay would “dam­age the in­ter­ests of the U.K. and our EU part­ners.”

Ear­lier in the day, John­son had told law­mak­ers that “fur­ther de­lay would be bad for this coun­try, bad for the Euro­pean Union and bad for democ­racy.”

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron seemed to agree. Macron’s of­fice said he spoke to John­son by phone and in­sisted on the need for “quick clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the Bri­tish po­si­tion on the ac­cord.” The pres­i­dent’s of­fice said Macron in­di­cated to the Bri­tish prime min­is­ter that “a de­lay would be in no one’s in­ter­est.”

At a rare week­end sit­ting of Par­lia­ment, law­mak­ers voted 322-306 to with­hold their ap­proval of the Brexit deal un­til leg­is­la­tion to im­ple­ment it has been passed.

The vote sought to en­sure that the U.K. can­not crash out of the EU with­out a di­vorce deal on the sched­uled de­par­ture date. John­son, who struck the agree­ment with the EU ear­lier this week, said he was not “daunted or dis­mayed” by the re­sult and would con­tinue to do all he can to get Brexit done in less than two weeks.

Par­lia­ment’s first week­end sit­ting since the Falk­land­sWar of 1982 had been dubbed “Su­per Satur­day.” It looked set to bring Bri­tain’s Brexit saga to a head, more than three years af­ter the coun­try’s di­vi­sive de­ci­sion to leave the EU.

But the gov­ern­ment’s hopes were de­railed when House of Com­mons Speaker John Ber­cow said hewould al­lowa vote on an amend­ment to put the vote on the deal off un­til an­other day.

The amend­ment makes sup­port for the deal con­di­tional on pas­sage of the leg­is­la­tion to im­ple­ment it, some­thing that could take sev­eral days or weeks. It also gives law­mak­ers an­other chance to scru­ti­nize — and pos­si­bly change— the Brexit de­par­ture terms while the leg­is­la­tion is in Par­lia­ment.

The gov­ern­ment still hopes it can pass the needed leg­is­la­tion by the end of the month so the U.K. can leave on time.

The leader of the House of Com­mons, Ja­cob ReesMogg, said the gov­ern­ment would hold a de­bate Mon­day on its Brexit-im­ple­ment­ing leg­is­la­tion— ef­fec­tively a sec­ond at­tempt to se­cure ap­proval for the deal.

It’s un­clear whether that would be al­lowed un­der House of Com­mons rules against hold­ing re­peated votes on the same ques­tion. Ber­cow said hewould make a rul­ing Mon­day.

The vote was wel­comed by hun­dreds of thou­sands of anti- Brexit demon­stra­tors who marched to Par­lia­ment Square, de­mand­ing a new ref­er­en­dum on whether Bri­tain should leave the EU or re­main. Pro­test­ers, many wear­ing blue berets em­bla­zoned with yel­low stars sym­bol­iz­ing the EU flag, poured out of sub­ways and buses for the last-ditch ef­fort.

“An­other chance for san­ity and per­haps ra­tio­nal­ity to take over, rather than emo­tion,” film­maker Jove Lorenty said as he stood out­side Par­lia­ment. “Never give up un­til the fat lady sings. No one knows what will hap­pen, but we have hope.”

John­son, who came to power in July vow­ing to get Brexit fin­ished, called any de­lay to Bri­tain’s de­par­ture point­less, ex­pen­sive and deeply “cor­ro­sive of public trust.” And he warned that the bloc’s ap­proval could not be guar­an­teed.

“There is very lit­tle ap­petite among our friends in the EU for this busi­ness to be pro­tracted by one ex­tra day,” John­son said. “They have had three and a half years of this de­bate.”

EU lead­ers have made the same point. Macron said Fri­day that “the Oct. 31 date must be re­spected. I don’t be­lieve new de­lays should be granted.”

The EU was guarded in its re­sponse to Satur­day’s vote.

“It will be for the U.K. gov­ern­ment to in­form us about the next steps as soon as pos­si­ble,” EU Com­mis­sion spokes­woman Mina An­dreeva tweeted.

When push comes to shove, the EU seems likely to grant an ex­ten­sion if needed to avoid a dis­rup­tive no-deal Brexit.

Pol­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ma­teusz Mo­raw­iecki said his coun­try saw the vote as a de­lay, rather than a re­jec­tion of the Brexit deal. For EU lead­ers, avoid­ing a chaotic, no-deal Brexit should be the “top pri­or­ity,” he said in a tweet.

But John­son must win over a frac­tious and di­vided Par­lia­ment, which three times re­jected the Brexit plan ne­go­ti­ated by his pre­de­ces­sor, Theresa May.


Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son speaks in the House of Com­mons in Lon­don dur­ing a rare Satur­day ses­sion.

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