Johnson wins one Brexit vote but loses another

British PM wins Parliament's backing for the substance of his Brexit deal, but legislators reject the timetable for its implementation.

Ben Ariel ,

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday won Parliament's backing for the substance of his Brexit deal as lawmakers voted in principle for the plan, backing by 329-299 a bill to implement the agreement Johnson struck with the EU last week, reported The Associated Press.

Minutes later, however, legislators rejected Johnson’s fast-track timetable to pass the bill, saying they needed more time to scrutinize it. The vote went 322-308 against the government, sending the Brexit process back into uncertainty.

Without speedy passage of the bill, Britain won't be able to make an orderly exit from the bloc on October 31, the central vow of Johnson's three-month-old administration.

Johnson hailed the fact that "for the first time in this long saga this House has actually accepted its responsibilities together, come together, and embraced a deal."

"One way or another we will leave the EU with this deal to which this House has just given its assent," he added, according to AP, though he also said the government would "accelerate" preparations for a no-deal outcome because of the uncertainty.

Johnson had hoped to push the legislation through the House of Commons by Thursday. But he said after the defeat that he would "pause" the bill until the EU had decided whether to agree to delay Britain's departure.

Late last week, MPs voted to force Johnson into seeking a delay beyond October 31.

The British Prime Minister later wrote to Brussels asking for a Brexit extension, but also refused to sign the letter and sent a second signed letter insisting he was not seeking an extension to the Brexit deadline, which has already been postponed twice.

Any delay will still require the agreement of all of the other 27 EU member states, and they are deeply weary of the long-running Brexit saga. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French lawmakers Tuesday that he sees "no justification" at this stage for a further delay.

Earlier, Johnson had said he might call a vote on holding a snap general election if Parliament blocked his plans in the hopes of breaking the political deadlock over Brexit that has dragged on as lawmakers have squabbled over the country's departure terms. However, he's likely to wait to hear from the EU on the delay request before deciding whether to push for an election.

But before Tuesday's vote, he said, "I will in no way allow months more of this."