No-deal Brexit bill passed by MPs in major blow to Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered another defeat in the UK Parliament Wednesday, when lawmakers approved a rebel bill to block a no-deal Brexit next month.
The bill, which instructs Johnson to request another Brexit extension if he cannot secure a deal with the European Union in the coming weeks, was approved by 327 votes to 299 in the House of Commons.
It was the only the second substantive vote of Johnson’s premiership — and it was the second time he lost.
Johnson said the legislation amounted to a “surrender bill” and asked for lawmakers to approve his request for an early election. A vote on that measure was due to be held later.
The no-deal Brexit bill, meanwhile, now passes to the House of Lords where it will likely face extensive delaying tactics. Conservative peers, who do not have a majority in the upper house, want to prevent the motion being passed; if they succeed, that could prevent it becoming law before Johnson suspends Parliament early next week.
The bill was put forward after rebel MPs seized control of parliamentary business in a vote on Tuesday night. It followed a tumultuous day for the new Prime Minister, in which he lost his working majority and fired a number of longstanding Conservative lawmakers.
Johnson has previously refused to take the no-deal Brexit option off the table, arguing that the threat of a chaotic exit makes his negotiating position stronger.
The opposition was joined by a number of rebels from Johnson’s own party in voting against the government. They were arguing a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for the British economy, because it would create regulatory chaos, cut companies of their key markets, and disrupt complex supply chains.
The House of Lords, Parliament’s unelected upper chamber, has limited powers. It can either pass the bill or send it back to the Commons with amendments. But while the Lords can’t ditch the bill completely, they can try to delay the process.
And that is exactly what seems to be on the cards. Members of the House of Lords have laid down almost 100 amendments to the bill ahead of the vote on Wednesday, a move the opposition billed as an attempted filibuster.
Johnson said that if the vote was to pass through the Commons, he would press forward with efforts to call a snap general election, in an attempt to break the Brexit logjam in Parliament.
But it remains unclear whether he can achieve parliamentary support for that move either.
Although Britain is currently set to leave the European Union on October 31, another extension to the deadline can be requested and approved at an EU Council summit before that date.