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'No-deal' Brexit opponents defeat Johnson in Parliament

Reuters
Published:  |  Modified:

In a 328-301 vote, British lawmakers yesterday (early this morning in Malaysia) voted for a motion put forward by opposition parties and rebel lawmakers in Boris Johnson's party to stop him from taking Britain out of the European Union without a divorce agreement.

This prompted Prime Minister Johnson (photo, above) to announce that he would immediately push for a snap election, which would pit the avowed Brexiteer against Labour leader and veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn.

More than three years after the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, the defeat leaves the course of Brexit unresolved, with possible outcomes still ranging from a turbulent 'no-deal' exit to abandoning the whole endeavour.

The victory in Parliament is the first hurdle for lawmakers who, having succeeded in taking control of the parliamentary business, will on Wednesday seek to pass a law forcing Johnson to ask the EU to delay Brexit until Jan 31, unless he has a deal approved by Parliament beforehand on the terms and manner of the exit.

The Conservative rebels, who now face expulsion from the party, included Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Britain's World War Two leader Winston Churchill, and two former finance ministers - Philip Hammond and Kenneth Clarke.

In a historic showdown between prime minister and Parliament, Johnson's opponents said they wanted to prevent him playing Russian roulette with a country once touted as a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability.

They argue that nothing can justify the risk of a 'no-deal' Brexit that would cut economic ties overnight with Britain's biggest export market and inevitably bring huge economic disruption.

Johnson cast the challenge as an attempt to force Britain to surrender to the EU just as he hopes to secure concessions on the terms of the divorce, helped by the threat to walk out without one. Ahead of the vote, he said he would never accept another delay to Brexit beyond Oct 31.

Johnson's government will now seek to hold a vote on Wednesday to approve an early election, most likely to be held on Oct 14. An election would pit the avowed Brexiteer against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist.

In the eye of the Brexit maelstrom, though, it was unclear whether opposition parties would support such a move - which requires the support of two-thirds of the 650-seat House of Commons.

Corbyn has long demanded an election as the best way out of the crisis, but many of those seeking to prevent a 'no-deal' Brexit say Johnson could time the poll to ensure that Parliament cannot prevent an Oct 31 departure - with or without a deal.

After the vote, Corbyn told Johnson that he must get the Brexit delay bill that will be discussed on Wednesday passed, before trying to call an election.

- Reuters

Churchill's grandson to be expelled from Conservative Party after defying Johnson

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