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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told UK parliament “now is the time to get this thing done” as he pleaded with lawmakers to back his new Brexit plan. (Oct. 19)
AP Domestic

LONDON – Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hoping British lawmakers on Monday will vote on and pass a Brexit withdrawal agreement he negotiated with the European Union after a weekend vote was sabotaged by opposition and rebel parliamentarians. 

In an unexpected twist to Brexit’s months-long stalemate, parliamentarians Saturday forced Johnson to ask the EU for an extension to his Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.

They want more time to scrutinize the legislation and to make sure there is sufficient time to implement it, so a so-called no-deal Brexit can be completely ruled out. 

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Johnson was forced by law to send a letter to the EU requesting an extension, which the EU has not yet granted, but he did not sign it and he made it clear that he was against any form of postponement to leaving the 28-nation bloc by Halloween. 

Now Johnson wants Parliament to hold the vote on Monday. However, that is up to Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, who has not yet approved it.

“This is the chance to leave the EU with a deal on Oct. 31,” Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said Monday, urging Bercow to allow the vote to go ahead.

“If Parliament wants to respect the referendum, it must back the bill,” he said. 

Johnson’s government is trying to push ahead with implementing legislation for the deal he agreed with the EU before Parliament has indicated whether it will approve it, although for Brexit to happen lawmakers will need to first pass judgment on the deal, according to Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London. 

A vote in Parliament on Johnson’s deal is theoretically the last major obstacle to winning approval for Britain’s exit from the EU three years after a national referendum that has divided Britain. Theresa May stepped down as prime minister after repeatedly failing to get lawmakers to approve her divorce deal. And her predecessor, David Cameron, resigned after failing to predict the political chaos that Brexit would leash. 

Johnson’s deal resembles May’s, although he has replaced the “backstop” – measures to prevent a post-Brexit return to a “hard” border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom – with “alternative arrangements” that allow some customs checks to take place on the UK mainland.

Frictionless trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland is one of the things that underpins the Good Friday Agreement, a peace deal between the British and Irish governments, and most of the political parties in Northern Ireland. 

Under a so-called no-deal Brexit, many of the laws and regulations that have governed Britain’s four-decade relationship with the EU, from trade to security, would effectively evaporate overnight. Economists believe that it would significantly harm Britain’s economy and threaten chaos on its borders. The British government claims that it has made adequate emergency preparations to cover just-in-time supply chains on which Britain relies for access to some fresh foods and essential medicines. 

It could be a few days before the EU decides to respond to the Brexit delay request.

“We will have somewhat more clarity in the coming days, and we will then exercise our responsibility and quickly make a decision,” Germany’s Peter Altmaier said.