Britain's Boris Johnson set to push for vote on EU divorce bill
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to push for a vote on his European Union divorce deal on Monday, as Parliament geared up for a week of guerrilla warfare over Brexit.
With just 10 days to go until the U.K. is due to leave the bloc on Oct. 31, Johnson’s government planned to ask for a “straight up-and-down vote” on the EU divorce agreement. That request comes two days after lawmakers voted to delay approving the deal.
But House of Commons Speaker John Bercow could refuse to allow such a vote because parliamentary rules generally bar the same measure from being considered a second time during the same session of Parliament unless something has changed.
Johnson’s Conservative government will also introduce the legislation necessary to implement the Brexit agreement it struck with the EU last week, opening the door to potentially lengthy debates or amendments that could scuttle the deal.
With the Brexit deadline looming and British politicians still squabbling over the country’s departure terms from the bloc, Johnson has been forced to ask the EU for a three-month delay to the departure date.
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He did that, grudgingly, to comply with a law passed by Parliament ordering the government to postpone Brexit rather than risk the economic damage that could come from a no-deal exit.
But Johnson accompanied the letter to the EU, sent late Saturday, with a second note saying that he personally opposed delaying the U.K.’s Oct. 31 exit.
European Council President Donald Tusk said he would consult EU leaders on how to respond to the request. The other 27 EU members are weary of the long-running Brexit saga, but also want to avoid a no-deal British exit, which would damage economies on both sides of the Channel.
Germany’s economy minister suggested it could be a few days before the EU decided to respond to the Brexit delay request.
“We will have somewhat more clarity in the coming days, and we will then exercise our responsibility and quickly make a decision,” Germany’s Peter Altmaier said.
He told Deutschlandfunk radio that he wouldn’t have a problem with an extension by “a few days or a few weeks” if that rules out a no-deal Brexit.
But French President Emmanuel Macron, who had a phone call with Johnson over the weekend, called for a quick clarification of the U.K.’s position. In a statement, he said a delay “would not be in any party’s interest.”
France’s junior minister for European affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, told French news broadcaster BFM TV there would have to be a reason for the delay, like a parliamentary election in Britain or a new British referendum on Brexit.
The British government still hopes it can pass the needed Brexit legislation by the end of the month so the U.K. can leave on time.
But it suffered a setback on Saturday — Parliament’s first weekend sitting since the Falklands War of 1982 — when British lawmakers voted to make support for the Brexit deal conditional on passage of the legislation to implement it, something that could take several days or weeks.
That also gives lawmakers another chance to scrutinize — and possibly change— the Brexit departure terms while the bill is still in Parliament.