London – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on Monday due to ask lawmakers to vote on holding an election on December 12 in return for more time to scrutinize his Brexit deal after the EU extended Britain’s departure date.
A flextension is granted
Shortly before lawmakers were to meet in the elected lower house, the House of Commons, EU member states agreed to grant Britain a three-month delay on its departure from the European Union until January 31.
The so-called “flextension” would allow Britain to leave earlier if the withdrawal agreement has been ratified by both sides in time, European Council President Donald Tusk wrote on Twitter.
A Downing Street spokesman said Johnson has not seen the EU proposal, but his “view has not changed.”
“Parliament should not have put the UK in this position and we should be leaving on October 31,” the spokesman said, according to the Press Association (PA) news agency.
Britain’s long way out of the EU
No Brexit with no majority
Johnson has repeatedly stated Britain was to leave the EU on October 31, but was legally compelled to seek an extension by parliament against his will.
The prime minister has twice tabled motions for a snap election in the House of Commons, but failed to win the two-thirds majority he required.
Lacking a majority, the Conservative Party leader also needs votes from Labour, the main opposition party.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had said that before backing an election, his party wanted certainty that the European Union had agreed to an extension to Thursday’s Brexit deadline and that Johnson could not withdraw Britain from the bloc without a deal.
While Corbyn had yet to comment on the Brussels extension statement, the mayor of London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, who favours remaining in the EU, tweeted: “Good news. Now the immediate risk of a catastrophic no-deal has been removed – it’s time to give the British public the final say on Brexit.”
Diverse views in the opposition
Differences have emerged in the opposition. Two smaller opposition parties – the pro-EU Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP) – were ready to push for a December 9 election by presenting a separate bill.
The bill would tweak the law which sets the time-frame for elections, and which would only need a simple majority of lawmakers. Speaking earlier on BBC’s Today programme Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said the bill would not give Johnson “wriggle room.”
“I think setting that date in law is a very good idea,” she added.
Downing Street later said the government will introduce an “almost identical” bill if the December 12 poll fails, PA reported.
However, Labour chair Ian Lavery accused the Liberal Democrats of “getting into bed with the no-deal Brexit Conservatives and forgetting their chums” in the campaign for a second referendum on Brexit.
The Liberal Democrats and SNP plan was on Sunday labelled a “gimmick” by Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly.