UK Lawmakers Reject Fast Track for Brexit Bill

In a defeat for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, "Parliament has thrown the whole [Brexit] process into a legislative netherworld."
Matthew HellerOctober 23, 2019
UK Lawmakers Reject Fast Track for Brexit Bill

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to extricate the country from the European Union is on hold after he lost a critical vote in Parliament.

Lawmakers on Tuesday granted preliminary approval to the Brexit deal that Johnson thrashed out with the EU last week. But they then balked at putting the legislation on a fast track so he could meet the Oct. 31 deadline for leaving the bloc.

“By blocking Mr. Johnson, Parliament has thrown the whole process into a legislative netherworld that could mean months of further delays to a process that the nation has long since wearied of and just wants to see end,” The New York Times reported.

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In response to his parliamentary setback, Johnson halted the passage of his deal altogether while Britain waits to see if the EU grants an extension.

An extension is likely to delay the Brexit deadline until Jan. 31, which, according to The Daily Beast, could put British politicians “under heavy pressure to agree to hold an election and seek a fresh mandate from the voters before proceeding with any Brexit deal.”

“It is entirely conceivable that Mr. Johnson’s deal will kick around Parliament for weeks, potentially becoming encumbered with amendments that either Mr. Johnson or the European Union would reject as unacceptable,” the Times said. “The best option then, analysts said, would be to give the voters a chance to make themselves heard in a general election.”

On the motion for the government’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill to proceed, Johnson won the vote by 329 to 299 — the first time that U.K. lawmakers have, by a majority, backed any Brexit deal agreed between Brussels and London.

But  by 322 to 308 votes, MPs rejected the timetable that would have seen the bill go through Parliament in three days.

Labour Party lawmakers vowed to push for amendments to the deal. “We will seek a very clear commitment to a customs union, a strong single market relationship, hard-wired commitments on workers’ rights, non-regression of environmental standards, and loopholes closed to avoid the threat of a no-deal Brexit once and for all,” Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s leader, said.

Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images