British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to be pushing Wednesday for an early general election after Parliament blocked a fast-track plan to approve his Brexit deal before Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union on Oct. 31.
Lawmakers on Tuesday backed the substance of Johnson’s divorce deal but rejected plans to allow only three days of debate before final consideration of the legislation, saying it didn’t provide enough time for scrutiny.
The government is now waiting for the EU’s response on a possible extension of the Brexit deadline. European Council President Donald Tusk said in a tweet that because of the vote he would recommend that the other 27 EU nations grant Britain a delay in its departure to avoid a chaotic no-deal exit in just eight days.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told the BBC on Wednesday that Parliament’s failure to break the logjam means “we are left with the option of a general election. ... That seems to me to be the only way to break this impasse.”
The good news for the prime minister was that lawmakers — for the first time since Britons chose in 2016 to leave the EU — voted in principle for a Brexit plan, backing a bill 329-299 to implement the agreement Johnson struck with the EU last week.
But minutes later, legislators rejected his fast-track timetable to pass the bill by 322 votes to 308, saying they needed more time to scrutinize it. The votes return the Brexit process back into grimly familiar territory: tortuous uncertainty.