LONDON: British MPs voted on Saturday to demand Boris Johnson delay Brexit while they further consider his EU divorce deal but the prime minister defiantly insisted Britain will leave on Oct 31.
In a day of high drama in the House of Commons, MPs declined to give their backing to the agreement Johnson struck with the EU this week until the legislation needed to ratify it has passed.
In doing so, they triggered a law requiring Johnson write to EU leaders by the end of the day asking to delay Brexit, to avoid the risk that Britain crashes out in less than two weeks.
Outside parliament, tens of thousands of people marching to demand a new referendum that might reverse Brexit erupted into cheers at the vote.
“That’s really good, that’s one step away from Brexit,” demonstrator Philip Dobson said.
“Reject Brexit”, “Put It To The People” and “Stop This Madness”, read some of the placards at the march, where many protesters also waved EU flags.
Outside UK parliament, tens of thousands of protesters call for a new referendum on the issue
As MPs were voting in parliament, they could hear shouts and cheers from the protesters outside.
“The first referendum was jumping on a train without a destination,” said Douglas Hill, 35, on the march with his Estonian wife.
“Now that we have a destination, we need to have a second referendum.”
The outcome of the vote is a blow to Johnson, who has previously said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than prolong the tortuous process of ending Britain’s 46-year-old membership of the EU.
However, Johnson responded with characteristic defiance, sparking outrage among opposition MPs — and fresh uncertainty about what happens next.
“I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so,” he told MPs, who met on a Saturday for the first time since the 1982 Falklands War.
“I continue in the very strong belief that the best thing for the UK and for the whole of Europe is for us to leave with this new deal on Oct 31.” There was no immediate confirmation from officials that Johnson would send his letter, but a tweet from his Conservative party said: “The prime minister will not ask for a delay.”
Brussels urged Britain to explain its plan as soon as possible, while French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said a new delay to Brexit was “in nobody’s interest”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose party opposes the deal, said: “The prime minister must now comply with the law.”
Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2019