Friday, November 15 2019

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Britain's Johnson offers Dec 12 poll to break Brexit deadlock

Update: October, 25/2019 - 10:19

LONDON — UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday proposed settling the Brexit crisis through an early election on December 12 that could help Britain finally find a way out of the European Union.

The Conservative leaders' offer comes with his party leading opinion surveys and the opposition split over whether to back a snap poll or to seek a new EU membership referendum that could undo the one triggering Brexit in 2016.

It also suggests that Johnson has all but given up on his repeated pledge to take Britain out of the EU after nearly 50 years by the twice-delayed October 31 deadline.

The government said parliament would have "an opportunity to debate and approve" the election proposal on Monday - just after Brussels is expected to announce the length of a new delay.

But opposition lawmakers have rejected two past early election offers from Johnson and have shown no clear indication of being willing to back one now.

Johnson told his political rivals on Thursday that he was ready to resume debates on his tough EU divorce terms should parliament take up his offer.

He effectively pulled the plan after lawmakers refused on Tuesday to rush it through in time for him to meet his "do-or-die" pledge to deliver Brexit on time.

Johnson said on Thursday that it was now "our duty to end this nightmare and provide the country with a solution.

"We cannot risk wasting the next three months then this farce being replayed with yet another delay in January 2020," he wrote in a letter to opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"Parliament cannot continue to hold the country hostage."

Labour doubts

Labour has previously refused to back a snap election until the possibility of a chaotic "no-deal" divorce has been firmly ruled out.

The party's parliamentary business spokeswoman Valerie Vaz reaffirmed that position in parliament on Thursday - to jeers from Conservative MPs.

"The Labour Party will back an election once no deal is ruled out and if the extension allows," Vaz said.

A European diplomat said the bloc's leaders would take the weekend to consider the new extension's terms.

"The answer could arrive on Monday," the source said in Brussels.

But Labour leader Corbyn later appeared to suggest that he would not be satisfied until Johnson's entire withdrawal agreement is revised.

"No deal is a threat that Boris Johnson has been using all along, and indeed it's included in the legislation that's before parliament at the moment," Corbyn told the BBC.

"I want us not to crash out of the EU."

Labour MP Stella Creasy also told the BBC she "can't see why we'd support (an election) because it doesn't take no-deal off the table".

Under current legislation, two-thirds of lawmakers must vote in favour of an early poll and Johnson is currently running a minority government.

Passing his Brexit legislation would rely on the shaky support of ousted Conservatives and Labour rebels from Brexit-supporting constituencies. — AFP

 

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