British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unable to push through parliament his Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday, keeping the UK’s departure from the EU on schedule for 31 October.
Johnson wanted the House of Commons to debate the 110-page bill by Thursday, so the UK can leave the EU by the end of the month. This would have allowed the House of Lords to ratify the bill – on an equally tight schedule – while giving the EU’s remaining 27 national parliaments and the European Parliament, itself, time to approve the Withdrawal Agreement.
Although Jonhson’s agreement was in principle approved by a 329-to-299 majority, the tightly scheduled three-day debate was not given the green light. A number of Labour MPs were willing to back the bill in principle but wanted the opportunity to openly debate and amend the deal, including a provision that would allow for a UK-EU Customs Union.
The Liberal Democrat’s spokesman for Brexit, Tom Brake, called the threat to pull the bill “childish blackmail” and added that MPs would not be bullied into voting in favour under a “ridiculously short timetable”. By Tuesday evening, Parliament had voted by a 322-to-308 margin not to accept the tight debate schedule for any bill that would change the country’s constitutional outlook for decades to come.
European Council President Donald Tusk said he was discussing the request for a Brexit delay with the leaders of the EU’s remaining 27 members. Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Tusk made clear that “a no-deal Brexit will never be our decision.”
Consequently, Johnson is expected to propose a delay that would see the Britain’s withdrawal extended to 10 January, or until snap elections can take place. The decision, however, is not entirely up to Johnson after he was forced to send to Tusk that requested a delay until 31 January.
The earliest snap elections could take place in the UK by Thursday, 28 November. This is determined by taking into consideration that 25 days are required between when an election is called and polling day. A two-thirds majority is needed in Parliament before elections can be called ahead of schedule.
The opposition Labour party has indicated that it would be willing to go to the polls, while the Scottish National Party is also willing to back a motion to call early elections.