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U.K. Lawmakers Foil Johnson With Votes to Delay Brexit and Bar Snap Election


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U.K. Lawmakers Foil Johnson With Votes to Delay Brexit and Bar Snap Election

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-k-lawmakers-seek-to-delay-brexit-again-dealing-johnson-another-blow-11567602853?mod=hp_lead_pos6

LONDON—British lawmakers imposed twin defeats on Prime Minister

Boris Johnson,

frustrating his signature effort to take Britain out of the European Union at the end of October and thwarting his push for a quick election.

The back-to-back blows Wednesday for Mr. Johnson’s minority government significantly reduce the chances that the U.K. will leave the bloc abruptly on Oct. 31 without a deal to minimize expected economic disruption. But they also augur a further spell of political and economic uncertainty for Europe’s second-largest economy.

Lawmakers voted 327 to 299 in favor of a proposal requiring the government to seek a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline if it can’t agree with the EU, by Oct. 19, on new terms for separation that meet Parliament’s approval. The U.K. is currently scheduled to leave Oct. 31.

The House of Commons, Parliament’s lower house, also Wednesday rejected Mr. Johnson’s push for an Oct. 15 snap general election, though the standoff between Parliament and prime minister likely still leaves the U.K. on course for its third nationwide poll in four years, albeit later in the fall.

“It is completely impossible for the government to function if the House of Commons refuses to pass anything the government proposes,” Mr. Johnson said during a series of debates.

The decision to delay Brexit still needs the approval of Parliament’s House of Lords, where some members were bringing in bedclothes in anticipation of a dayslong slog toward a vote.

Mr. Johnson has already vowed not to seek any extension, saying further delay would be an affront to voters who chose to exit from the EU in a referendum in 2016. Britain’s withdrawal, originally scheduled for March 29, has already been postponed twice.

Deeper Down

After a serious loss in Parliament, the Conservative party expelled 21 members.

Seats by party in the U.K. Parliament

96

Independent

and other

parties

10

Democratic Unionist Party

Seats by party in the U.K. Parliament

96

Independent

and other

parties

10

Democratic Unionist Party

Seats by party in the U.K. Parliament

96

Independent

and other

parties

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10

Democratic Unionist Party

Seats by party in the U.K. Parliament

96

Independent

and other parties

Democratic Unionist Party

That sets the stage for further clashes with Parliament. Mr. Johnson failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed in Parliament to call an Oct. 15 election. Opposition lawmakers fear a snap poll could give Mr. Johnson an opening to reimpose an Oct. 31 split without any deal.

Many instead favor holding a vote after Brexit is delayed, possibly in November.

Jeremy Corbyn,

leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he would support an election only once an abrupt split Oct. 31 is no longer an option.

Mr. Corbyn described Mr. Johnson’s bid for an election before then as a ruse to keep that prospect alive. “The reality is deeply unpalatable: a disastrous no-deal Brexit to take us into the arms of a trade deal with

Donald Trump

that would put America First and Britain a distant second.”

Mr. Johnson needs to reboot his premiership after sacking 21 Conservative Party lawmakers on Tuesday night. They were kicked out of the party after voting against his government out of concern over a no-deal exit. Having lost his majority, Mr. Johnson needs a convincing new mandate to deliver on his promise to leave the EU.

In his debut question-and-answer session with lawmakers earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Johnson labeled the delay proposal a “surrender bill” that would hobble his efforts to renegotiate the terms of a withdrawal pact negotiated with the EU by his predecessor,

Theresa May.

It “would wreck any chance of a deal,” he said, and lead to more “dither and delay” in delivering the result of a 2016 referendum in which Britons voted 52% to 48% to quit the EU.

Mr. Johnson and his allies repeatedly voted against Mrs. May’s deal, ensuring it was rejected by Parliament. The main sticking point was the so-called backstop provision in the deal that was meant to avoid the emergence of a physical border in Ireland. Critics like Mr. Johnson said it would keep the U.K. tied to the EU against its will, and since becoming prime minister in July, he has said the backstop must be abolished.

Since Mr. Johnson took over in July, his party has seen a fillip in opinion polls, opening up a lead against the main opposition Labour Party, and many of his supporters believe he is a good campaigner.

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But party-political preferences have been volatile, and the party’s weakness in Scotland and other anti-Brexit areas means it will have to fare better elsewhere than it did in the last election in 2017.

In a sign the government is gearing up for an election, U.K. Treasury chief,

Sajid Javid,

on Wednesday laid out a suite of voter-friendly spending pledges, including funding to hire an extra 20,000 police officers and cash for schools and hospitals.

Mr. Javid said progress on eliminating a persistent budget deficit and record-low interest rates mean the treasury can afford to borrow more to finance extra spending on public services and new infrastructure.

“We can now afford to turn the page on austerity,” Mr. Javid said.

Mr. Javid also announced a £2 billion ($2.4 billion) package to hire border patrol staff and revamp port infrastructure to prepare for the U.K.’s split from the EU.

Write to Jason Douglas at jason.douglas@wsj.com

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