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British parliament votes to force Brexit delay

Parliament voted 322 to 306 in favour of an amendment put forward by Oliver Letwin, a former Conservative cabinet minister.

FILE: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a speech outside 10 Downing Street in London on 24 July 2019 on the day he was formally appointed British prime minister. Picture: AFP

LONDON - A defiant Boris Johnson said he would not negotiate a further delay to Britain’s departure from the European Union after parliament voted on Saturday to postpone a vote on his Brexit deal.

Parliament voted 322 to 306 in favour of an amendment put forward by Oliver Letwin, a former Conservative cabinet minister.

According to legislation passed earlier, the vote means Johnson is obliged to write to the European Union seeking a delay beyond Britain’s scheduled departure date of 31 October.

But Johnson has repeatedly vowed he will not do this and on Saturday he stuck to that line.

“I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so,” Johnson told parliament.

“I will tell our friends and colleagues in the EU exactly what I have told everyone else in the last 88 days that I have served as prime minister: that further delay would be bad for this country, bad for the European Union and bad for democracy.”

The vote, however, means the government will not hold a vote on its Brexit deal on Saturday as planned. Johnson said he would put it to a vote on Tuesday.

Letwin’s amendment proposed that a decision on whether to back a Brexit deal be deferred until all the legislation needed to implement it has been passed through parliament.

Even though Johnson believes this can be achieved by 31 October, others think it would need a short ‘technical’ delay in Britain’s departure from the EU.

A law passed by Johnson’s opponents obliges him to ask the EU for a Brexit delay until 31 January 2020 if he could not secure approval for his deal by the end of Saturday.

“My aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds,” Letwin said earlier. But he wanted “an insurance policy which prevents the UK from crashing out on 31 October by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation”.

Three years after Britain voted 52-48% to leave the European project, Johnson struck a divorce deal with the bloc in Brussels on Thursday.

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