Brexit in Chaos After Parliament Defeats Johnson's Ratification Timetable

PM Johnson wins crucial slim victory for Brexit deal, but future still uncertain as timetable for exit comes under discussion

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the House of Commons in London, Britain October 22, 2019.
\ Jessica Taylor/ REUTERS

The British parliament backed Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal in an important legislative stage on Tuesday, but did not approve his extremely tight timetable for carrying it through the rest of the necessary stages to become law.

Lawmakers voted 329 to 299 in favor of the second reading of his 115-page Withdrawal Agreement Bill, a significant boost for Johnson just five days after he struck a last-minute deal with the EU.

In a crucial follow-up vote, 322 MPs voted to defeat the Programme Motion which set out a three-day schedule to rush his deal through the House of Commons, effectively delaying Brexit another time. His opponents said the bill allowed too little time to debate the measure.

A pro Brexit demonstrator holds a banner outside Parliament in London, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019
Kirsty Wigglesworth,AP

Earlier on Tuesday, Johnson said that if parliament failed to support his timetable, forcing a delay of Brexit, then he would abandon his attempt to ratify the deal and push for an election instead, under the slogan of "Get Brexit Done."

Johnson was on Saturday forced by opponents into the humiliation of asking the EU for a delay beyond October 31 that he had vowed he would never seek. The European Council president Donald Tusk said he is taking the request seriously.

Despite being "disappointed with the delay," Johnson hailed the first vote as a victory, saying it was now clear that "one way or another, we will leave the EU with this deal." 

"The EU must now make up their minds over how to answer parliament's request for a delay," the Prime Minister said, adding he will speak to EU leaders.

"Until they have reached a decision we will pause this legislation. Let me be clear, our policy remains that we should not delay," he said.

The votes propell the legislation to another stage at which his opponents can ambush the government with amendments that could wreck the essence of his deal by demanding a much closer post-Brexit relationship with the EU.

PM Boris Johnson (C) speaks at the opening of the debate into the Brexit withdrawal agreement bill, London, October 22, 2019
AFP