World / Politics

Boris Johnson's Brexit plans in disarray after stinging defeats

AFP-JIJI

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hard-line Brexit strategy stood in tatters Thursday after a humiliating week left him without a working majority and unable to call an election.

His supporters ended a nightlong filibuster in the House of Lords when the government gave up trying to block a measure designed to stop a no-deal Brexit by forcing Johnson to seek a delay if he fails to reach an agreement with Brussels.

The law approved by MPs in the House of Commons and now being debated in the House of Lords would force the government to request a three-month delay to Brexit if it has not reached a deal by Oct. 19 — two days after an EU summit.

The opposition said it should now be able to pass the bill — which he has branded a “surrender document” — before he suspends Parliament for over a month next week.

“Govt commits to allowing (the draft legislation) to complete all stages in course of Thurs & Friday — with the bill then going back to the Commons for any further consideration on Monday,” the opposition Labour Party tweeted in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The House of Commons fast-tracked the legislation on Wednesday and then blocked Johnson’s call for an early election that he wants held on Oct. 15.

Labour said it will only back the snap poll once it makes sure Johnson is unable to follow through on his threat to take Britain out of the EU with no deal by the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.

Parliament has now dealt Johnson a rapid series of stinging defeats that have left him a weakened leader just six weeks into his term.

The splintered country still stands no closer to finding out how or when — or even if — it will leave the European Union, more than three years after the original Brexit referendum.

Johnson will also face another legal challenge on Thursday against his decision to order the suspension of Parliament from next week until Oct. 14 — a move that his critics have called a “coup” and a “constitutional outrage.”

It set the stage for the current furor in Westminster that Johnson tried to stamp out by expelling 21 of its own MPs for voting with the opposition.

They included former finance minister Philip Hammond and grandee Ken Clarke — the longest-serving MP — along with Winston Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames.

Johnson himself will be on a campaign footing on Thursday as he launches a national effort to recruit 20,000 police officers in Yorkshire in northern England.

The prime minister will also on Thursday host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Johnson has said he wants to strike a deal with EU leaders to allow for an orderly withdrawal from the bloc at the end of next month after 46 years of membership.

But the EU says it has not received any credible proposals from Britain, and a senior EU source on Wednesday poured cold water on the idea that a deal could be struck at a summit in Brussels on Oct. 17 and 18.

Leaked government assessments say a no-deal Brexit could lead to food and fuel shortages and disrupt vital drug supplies.

The food and automotive sectors are particularly concerned about high tariffs for their exports to the EU.

But the government says it will be ready for Brexit when the time comes and has stepped up no-deal preparations.

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