British parliament deals new Brexit blow to PM

LATE-NIGHT VOTE::British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted he would not delay Brexit, despite a bill being rushed through parliament that could force him to do so

AFP, LONDON

Wed, Sep 11, 2019 - Page 6

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to continue with his attempts to strike a new Brexit deal with Brussels, after losing yet another parliamentary vote yesterday to hold an early election.

Johnson slammed the opposition for voting against his call for a snap poll next month, in the final minutes of a late-night debate ahead of a controversial five-week suspension of the British Parliament called by the prime minister.

Johnson said he would “strive to get an agreement” at a summit in Brussels next month.

“While the opposition run from their duty to answer to those who put us here, they cannot hide forever,” he said. “The moment will come when the people will finally get their chance to deliver their verdict.”

It was a final show of defiance in a stormy parliamentary session in which Johnson also lost a separate vote, calling on the government to publish papers about the potential effects of a no-deal Brexit.

The opposition has said it would not allow an early election, which under British law requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament in favor, until Johnson has either struck a deal or delayed Brexit beyond Oct. 31.

The prime minister said that he would not delay, despite a bill being rushed through Parliament in the past few days that could force him to do so if he fails to reach an agreement with the EU.

“This government will not delay Brexit any further,” he said.

In a further sign of the political turmoil, British House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, who has championed the rights of British MPs to challenge the government, announced that he was stepping down.

In exceptional scenes as the Parliament shut down for five weeks, opposition Labour MPs waved signs that read: “Silenced,” while one tried to restrain the speaker, to prevent him leaving for the suspension ceremony.

Opposition MPs jeered and chanted: “Shame on you,” as government MPs left the chamber, while Bercow, in protest, called the suspension “an act of executive fiat.”

Johnson had earlier visited Dublin for talks with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a key player in the search for a Brexit deal.

MPs rejected the current agreement three times earlier this year, in large part because of its provisions to keep open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

Johnson wants to scrap the so-called “backstop” plan, which would keep Britain aligned to EU trade rules to avoid any checks at the frontier, but the EU accuses him of offering no alternative.

“Common ground was established in some areas although significant gaps remain,” Johnson and Varadkar said in a joint statement following their talks.