Johnson will ask for Brexit delay after losing parliament vote – EU official

A EU supporter waves flags while other demonstrators march as parliament sits on a Saturday for the first time since the 1982 Falklands War, to discuss Brexit in London, Britain, October 19, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Boris Johnson will send a letter on Saturday requesting a further extension to Britain’s departure from the European Union, an EU official said, with the British prime minister obliged to ask for a delay after losing a vote in parliament.

Johnson had hoped that Saturday would see recalcitrant lawmakers support the divorce deal he agreed with EU leaders this week and finally end three years of political deadlock since the 2016 referendum vote to leave the bloc. 

Instead, lawmakers voted 322 to 306 in favour of an amendment that turned Johnson’s planned finale on its head by leaving the prime minister exposed to a humiliating obligation to ask the EU for a delay until the end of January 2020, and increasing the opportunity for opponents to frustrate Brexit.

Johnson has been promising that he will take the country out of the bloc on Oct. 31, come what may, and after the amendment passed, he struck a defiant tone.

“I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so,” he told parliament. “I will tell our friends and colleagues in the EU exactly what I have told everyone else in the last 88 days that I have served as prime minister: that further delay would be bad for this country, bad for the European Union and bad for democracy.”

However, he appeared to acknowledge in a letter sent later to lawmakers that he would ask for a Brexit extension – as called by for an earlier law passed by his opponents.

“It is quite possible that our friends in the European Union will reject parliament’s request for further delay (or not take a decision quickly),” Johnson wrote.

European Council President Donald Tusk said he had spoken to Johnson and an EU official said Johnson had confirmed in that call that the letter asking the EU for an extension would indeed be sent.

“Tusk will on that basis start consulting EU leaders on how to react. This may take a few days,” the official said.