"Face Further Uncertainty": Boris Johnson Loses Support For Brexit Deal

Brexit: The yes-no result means that Boris Johnson likely won't be able to deliver on his "do or die" promise to get Britain out of the European Union by October 31

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'Face Further Uncertainty': Boris Johnson Loses Support For Brexit Deal

Whether Brexit will be postponed by days or weeks or months remained unclear


Brexit was once again thrown into chaos on Tuesday, after Parliament first voted to support Boris Johnson's withdrawal deal in principle but then, minutes later, rejected his fast-track timetable for passing the necessary legislation.

The yes-no result means that Johnson likely won't be able to deliver on his "do or die" promise to get Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31.

Whether Brexit will be postponed by days or weeks or months remained unclear.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, lawmakers first signaled they did like Johnson's new Brexit deal, more or less, even grudgingly, by a vote of 329 to 299.

That was a momentary victory for Johnson - the first time a British prime minister's withdrawal plan has gotten a parliamentary nod, after repeated defeats in the House of Commons. Duly noted.

But then Parliament voted, 322 to 308, against Johnson's demand that lawmakers take only three days to read, scrutinize and amend the 110-page legislation.

"So now we face further uncertainty," Johnson said after that vote.

Ominously, as a clear threat, the prime minister warned that his government would immediately step up preparations to leave the European Union without a deal at the end of October.

But that could be a bluff.

Johnson also said: "One way or another, we will leave the EU with this deal, to which this house has just given its assent."

Johnson also notably omitted any mention of an election in his remarks after the vote, though earlier in the day he suggested that rejecting his timetable would mean "with great regret the bill will have to be pulled and . . . we will have to go forward to a general election."

Following the vote, he suggested more modest steps forward. He said he would "pause" further Brexit debate in Parliament and wait until the EU responds to Britain's request for a delay.

Johnson - who previously said he'd "rather be dead in a ditch" than ask European leaders for an extension - was on Saturday by law required to request one, until the end of January.

European Commission President Donald Tusk said Tuesday night that he would recommend that the other 27 EU leaders accept that request.

EU leaders are likely to confer early next week - whether in person or remotely is still unclear - and they will probably offer an extension until the end of January, with option for Britain to depart earlier if it has approved the deal in the meantime, said diplomats familiar with the discussions.

Before Tuesday's votes in Parliament, Johnson argued that speed was of the essence: Let's get it done.

Slow down, warned the skeptics. The British economy is at stake.

Lawmakers complained they were being asked to approve legislation they had not had time to scrutinize, nor, in many cases, even read.

The government published its withdrawal agreement bill - the legislation needed to enact the Brexit deal that Johnson negotiated with the EU - on Monday evening. That was the first chance anyone had to lay eyes on it.

Johnson wanted it sorted in 72 hours.

Ruth Smeeth, a Labour lawmaker who backed the deal in principle but voted against Johnson's fast-track timetable, said, "All we're asking for is the opportunity to ensure that the deal that was only presented to us last night works for our constituents and works for my local economy - we need slightly more time."

Labour leader Jeremy Corybn claimed Tuesday's vote as a refusal by the House of Commons "to be bounced into debating a hugely significant piece of legislation in just two days, with barely any notice and an analysis of the economic impact of this bill. The prime minister is the author of his own misfortune."

Corbyn made a peace offering, of a sort. He offered Johnson: "work with us, all of us, to agree a reasonable timetable, and I suspect this House will vote to debate, scrutinize and I hope amend the detail of this bill."

But Corbyn's vision of Brexit - remaining closely aligned with the EU and seeking a second referendum by the people to approve a deal - is anathema to Johnson.

Lucy Powell, another Labour lawmaker, said that "pausing" Brexit "feels like a very churlish reaction to what is a straight forward request" for more parliamentary time.

While lawmakers asked to press ahead on Brexit, House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told them that they would be debating the National Health Service on Wednesday and the economy on Thursday and not sit at all on Friday.

Political analysts said lawmakers weren't wrong to be concerned about the three-day period Johnson proposed for the Brexit legislation.

Hannah White, deputy director of the Institute for Government, an independent think tank, wrote in a post that the timetable proposed was "deeply inadequate."

"For a constitutional bill which makes probably the most significant changes to the U.K.'s position in the world that the Commons has been asked to consider for decades, it is extraordinary," she wrote. "The government must know this, but it is asking MPs to agree the timetable or be seen to be thwarting Brexit."

"Anyone who claims meaningful legislative scrutiny is possible on this timetable is - at best - misguided," she added.

Jon Tonge, a professor of politics at the University of Liverpool, expressed a similar sentiment.

"It's an absurdly constrained timetable," he said. "There hasn't been a single economic assessment done yet, and the deal is significantly different from May's."

When asked about the absence of an economic analysis, Johnson said the agreement would be a "powerful positive shot in the arm for the U.K. economy."

The deal seeks to leave the EU single market, diverge from EU customs regimes and tariff schedules and allow Britain to make its own independent trade deals around the world. The Johnson exit is a harder Brexit than that envisioned by his predecessor, Theresa May.

Johnson's deal also differs most markedly from May's over the vexing issue of Northern Ireland. His deal leaves the province much more closely aligned to the EU by effectively putting a border down the Irish Sea.

Some lawmakers pointed out that Parliament spent months debating a bill on how circus animals are treated. Other commentators compared passing Johnson's Brexit in three days to reading Tolstoy's phone-book-thick "War and Peace" on the bus ride home.

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The Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum in Brussels contributed to this report.



(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


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