Members of Parliament narrowly passed an amendment during an emergency session on Saturday, October 19, 2019, to postpone the decision on whether to vote “yes” or “no” to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.  Parliament said it needed more time to review the deal, which Prime Minister Johnson concluded last week with European leaders.  The primary aim of the amendment is to ensure the UK cannot leave the EU on October 31, 2019, the current Brexit date, without enacting detailed legislation governing the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Saturday’s vote effectively required the Prime Minister to request a third extension of the withdrawal date, which would postpone Brexit until January 31, 2020.  Prime Minister Johnson, who had vowed never to seek an extension, sent an unsigned letter to the EU asking for the required three-month extension.  But he also sent a signed letter to European Council President Donald Tusk urging EU leaders to turn down the extension request, and has stated he will bring his proposal back before Parliament on Monday, October 21, 2019.


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With the March 29, 2019 date for Brexit looming and no deal to address the separation yet approved, the House of Commons voted on March 14, 2019, to defer Brexit until at least June 30, 2019.  The vote of 413 in favor versus 202 against provided a clear majority of 211 for the government, a move that may avert the expected chaos that a “no deal” scenario would pose.

By law, however, the delay can only be authorized by the EU, with unanimous approval of the leaders of the remaining 27 countries in the bloc.  The prime minister faces a significant challenge in seeking that approval, as EU officials have said they will permit a delay only if Britain makes a fundamental shift in its approach to Brexit.  Although the bloc could consider a delay to Brexit, it  has made clear that after two years negotiating with Ms. May, it is not open to more talks on her deal, meaning the prime minister needs to find a way to convince British lawmakers to accept it.

The prime minister thus plans to make a third attempt to have parliament agree to a divorce deal — which the MPs have already rejected twice — next week, in advance of an upcoming EU summit.  Lawmakers also rejected, by a vote of 334 to 85, a second referendum on EU membership.
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