USA TODAY US Edition

EU grants Britain a Brexit delay to Jan. 31

- Kim Hjelmgaard

LONDON – British lawmakers rejected an attempt Monday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to call an early election as the European Union also granted a new Brexit delay to Jan. 31 next year, a move that temporaril­y staves off a chaotic U.K. departure from the bloc.

The developmen­t comes just three days before Britain was due to become the first country ever to leave the 28-nation bloc on Oct 31.

Johnson wanted to hold an election before Christmas to break an impasse in Parliament over Brexit. After losing the vote, he said he would try again with a new bill.

“This House can no longer keep this country hostage,” Johnson told lawmakers after losing Monday’s vote. He said Parliament had become “dysfunctio­nal” over Brexit.

The House of Commons voted 29970 to hold an early election, but that fell well short of the two-thirds majority of all 650 lawmakers that Johnson needed.

The main opposition Labour Party abstained from the vote.

A new attempt to call an election could come as early as Tuesday and may offer a short-cut to success for Johnson, because unlike Monday’s motion, the bill only needs a simple majority to pass and some opposition parties have indicated they may support it.

The EU divorce delay was announced earlier Monday on Twitter by European Council President Donald Tusk. He said that the EU approved a Brexit “flextensio­n,” meaning that if Britain’s Parliament is able to ratify an EU exit deal negotiated by Johnson ahead of Jan. 31, then Britain can withdraw from the bloc prior to that date.

It’s the second time the Brexit deadline has been changed since the 2016 referendum on Britain’s departure from the EU.

Johnson’s defeat over his call for a new election was his third in Parliament on the same issue, which is seen as a proxy vote on Britain’s ties with the

EU.

Johnson accepted the EU’s threemonth Brexit extension.

But he said he was doing so against his will.

“The only way to get Brexit done is to go to the people of this country,” Johnson told legislator­s Monday during debate in the House of Commons.

He accused his opponents of betraying voters’ decision to leave the EU.

He said that unless there was an election, the government would be “like Charlie Brown, endlessly running up to kick the ball only to have Parliament whisk it away.”

“We cannot continue with this endless delay,” he added.

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