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Brexit in slow lane, as PM Boris Johnson loses key timeline vote

Johnson was on Saturday forced by opponents into the humiliation of asking the EU for a delay beyond October 31 that he had vowed he would never seek

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Photo: Reuters

Britain’s departure from the European Union was thrown into chaos on Tuesday after Parliament rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s extremely tight timetable for ratifying his exit deal.

Ahead of the vote, Johnson had warned Parliament that if it defeated him on the timetable and forced a delay until January then he would abandon his attempt to ratify the deal and push for an election instead under the slogan of “Get Brexit Done”.

Johnson was on Saturday forced by opponents into the humiliation of asking the EU for a delay beyond October 31 that he had vowed he would never seek. 

The European Council president Donald Tusk said he is taking the request seriously. Lawmakers voted 322 to 308 against the so-called Programme Motion which set out a three-day schedule to rush his deal through the House of Commons.

Earlier, lawmakers voted 329 to 299 in favour of the second reading of his 115-page Withdrawal Agreement Bill, a significant boost for Johnson just five days after he struck a last-minute deal with the EU. “The Bill will have to be pulled,” Johnson had said when asked what he would do if Parliament defeated him. “We will have to go forward to a general election.”

Johnson needs Parliament’s support to trigger an early election because one is not scheduled until 2022. A source in the Opposition Labour Party said it will back an election only if a delay to Brexit is agreed first, to ensure that Britain does not leave the EU without a deal before the vote.

Topsy-turvy markets
 
Stocks were mixed as investors weighed a flurry of corporate earnings. The pound slumped after Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost a vote to fast-track Brexit legislation.

The S&P 500 Index fluctuated as a slide in tech shares offset a rally in energy companies. The Nasdaq-100 Index fell as Facebook Inc. and Netflix Inc. sank.