Mon | Nov 18, 2019

New blow to Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan after vote on deal blocked

Published:Monday | October 21, 2019 | 5:22 PM
Union Jacks and EU flags fly over Britain's Parliament in London, Saturday, October 19, 2019.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON (AP) — Britain faced another week of grinding political gridlock after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was denied a chance Monday to hold a vote by lawmakers on his Brexit divorce bill.

With just 10 days before Britain’s scheduled departure date, Johnson’s government had sought a “straight up-and-down vote” on the agreement he struck last week with the 27 other EU nations laying out the terms of Britain’s exit.

But the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, refused to allow it because lawmakers voted to delay approving the Brexit deal on Saturday, and parliamentary rules bar the same measure from being considered a second time during a session of Parliament unless something has changed.

Bercow’s ruling plunged the tortuous Brexit process back into grimly familiar territory. The government must now try to implement its Plan B — attempt to pass a Brexit-implementing bill through Britain’s fractious Parliament before the country’s scheduled October 31 departure date.

Bercow — whose rulings in favour of backbench lawmakers have stymied government plans more than once before — said the motion proposed by the government was “in substance the same” as the one Parliament dealt with on Saturday. He said it would be “repetitive and disorderly” to allow a new vote Monday.

On Saturday — Parliament’s first weekend sitting since the 1982 Falklands War — lawmakers voted to make support for the Brexit deal conditional on passing the legislation to implement it.

Johnson’s Conservative government will now try to do that.

The government published the 115-page bill late Monday, will hold the first vote on it Tuesday and hopes to have it become law by October 31.

But it’s unclear whether Johnson has either the time or the numbers to make that happen.

Passing a bill usually takes weeks, but the government wants to get this one done in 10 days. Johnson needs a majority in Parliament to pass it, but his Conservatives hold just 288 of the 650 House of Common seats.

The process also gives lawmakers another chance to scrutinise — and possibly change — the legislation.

Opposition lawmakers plan to seek amendments that could substantially alter the bill, for example by adding a requirement that the Brexit deal be put to voters in a new referendum.

The government says such an amendment would wreck its legislation and it will withdraw the bill if it succeeds.

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